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Tips to Avoid Questionable Jobs

On occasion, you’ll see someone coming to the Community to ask, “Is this legit?” as they reference a questionable job post or request from another user.


With over 17 million users on Upwork, we recognize the need to remain vigilant about suspicious activity. And though we’ll continue doing our best to prevent or address that activity asap, we also count on you to continue being diligent in protecting your information and access. Educating yourself and trusting your instincts are key to safety.


To that end, here are some tips and best practices that can help you identify and avoid potential scams:


  • Circumvention: This occurs when a client or freelancer asks or agrees to pay or be paid outside of Upwork. It is not only against the Terms of Service, but it’s also an easy way  to fall victim to a scam since you will not be protected by Upwork’s programs, like Hourly Payment Protection. Read more about  circumvention and staying safe online.

Payment methods: There are a number of approved choices for making payments and withdrawing funds on Upwork that clients and freelancers can select from when making or receiving payments. Only approved payment options should be used or received for payment. Additionally, talent should not send payment in any currency to clients off the platform for any reason, even in exchange for payment on the platform. Be cautious of requests to buy, sell, or transfer currencies of any kind (regular or crypto). Being asked to buy, sell, trade, or transfer any form of currency, even for a fee on Upwork, is prohibited and should be reported. For example, purchasing or transferring Bitcoin or other forms of cryptocurrency on behalf of a client is a violation of Upwork’s Terms of Service and a common scam.

  • Phishing: This is when a client is trying to steal your password and information by directing you to a fake login page. Always double check that links or HTML files clients send you are for valid websites. Make sure the URL is correct, and never give out your personal information.


  • Free Work: This happens when you’re asked to submit work before a milestone has been funded, or you’re requested to do the job as a “sample.” If a client requests a sample project it should be paid. Avoid this by never starting work before the official contract start date and the first milestone is funded.  This is different from asking for samples of your past work or other questions intended to vet your skills before engaging you.


  • Payment for materials or to “submit an application”: Never pay anything for a client to consider your proposal/application or to work for a client, even if they claim that the money will be reimbursed. Although Freelancers should generally pay their own expenses and have the tools they need to do the work, be very cautious if a client ever asks you to pay for something up front or to pay them directly for anything needed for the project.    


  • Check-cashing fraud: This happens when someone asks you to process PayPal payments, or request favors to cash or deposit checks and money orders in order to send the money somewhere else. These checks or money orders are likely fraudulent and your bank can hold you liable for the funds, even if you have already sent the money on to the “client”.


  • Shipping scam: We’ve seen scams in which a client has requested to have goods shipped to you, which you would then repackage and mail elsewhere. These items can be stolen or purchased with a stolen card and unwitting freelancers can be acting as the middleman.


  • Click bait: Be skeptical if you’re asked to click on external links or sign-up for websites, as you may be falling for a click-bait scam, where a website makes money off of the click-thru traffic. Google the website before clicking to see if there are relevant reviews or red flags.

  • Personal info: Clients do not need access to your personal information, driver's license, passport, social security number, tax forms, etc. Do not share this information.

  • Other flags: Jobs which advertise benefits, medical insurance and training programs are often red flags of a scam client.  Be extra cautious with those types of posts.

We take security seriously at Upwork. You can find more information about Trust and Safety on Upwork in this Help article. If you think you’re the victim of a possible scam, immediately contact Customer Support – or use one of the “Flag as inappropriate” links throughout the site and in Messages.


In the end, trust your instincts and feel free to continue asking here in our Community. We’re here to help and we’ll continue doing whatever we can to make sure the good users of Upwork stay safe.


See more of our Stay Safe series: 

150 REPLIES 150
Community Member

Great post Lena.


Could this be put up in the permanent greyed-out area of the Freelancer page in Community Discussions. As you can see, very few people come to the Content Corner. Everyone goes to the Freelancer page - just sayin'. 😉


ETA 12/16/2016: I'd like to add CJINC to Lena's list . . .

Hi Nichola,

We'll probably keep it here for now, but will do our best to give it proper visibility for new freelancers.

@Garnor M wrote:

Hi Nichola,

We'll probably keep it here for now, but will do our best to give it proper visibility for new freelancers.

 🙂 How?


I have done this sort of work, and I know that encapsulating hundreds of complaints, demands and answers, into a few coherent paragraphs requires considerable patience and expertise. Lena has done a terrific job. I think this post would be far more useful  on the freelancer page than the  "warning signs", which is now too top-heavy with questions and complaints to be useful.

Good feedback Nichola. I'll chat it over with Lena.

Hi Garnor,


I am new to upwork and I wish I had seen this vital info prior to responding to requests for interviews. Turns out both requests were scams and have almost all of the characteristics described above. I hate that I was naive enough to think that the requests were legit, one of the scammers even shows up in my profile as an actual candidacy.




I am new to Upwork as well and I almost got scammed today.  I received a message from a place in Bosnia regarding a proposal I had sent.  When I responded to the questions he had he indicated to told me the amount he was willing to pay per hour, etc.  I indicated that I was satisfied until it reached the point where he said I needed a permit to work in Bosnia to do online jobs.  I tried to google this but was not coming up with anything in relation to this.  When I reviewed my proposals - this job was in 'active candidacy' earlier - it was now nowhere to be found.  Then I got more suspicious.  So I sent him a message to indicate that I did not feel comfortable to carry out this assignment and as such he should seek an alternative.  It was my further research just now where I came upon this information about scamming.

Hi Patreena,


I checked and the client you communicated with was removed from Upwork for violating Upwork ToS. Your proposal was archived since the job is no longer available and you can find it under Proposals > Archived. Please review these safety tips in order to learn how to identify and avoid scam jobs.

~ Vladimir

What about our Connect points when we find and report a scam?  I have had several experiences just this week with people sending me links to do an outside interview, then they mention that they will be opting out, etc., etc., but they glaze over it and just want to talk about a side contract.  This is a huge problem and I have lost LOTS of connects applying for jobs that were fraudulent (the jobs were listed in a way that it seemed a PERSON was looking for an editor for a small project, or it's a short-term gig for a company and when you receive the information from their contact, two different companies' names are listed; the first is unrecognizable, the second is a major publishing company - that exact scenario has happened to me twice just this week.). Ugh!

I agree with you (though this is an old post). I got an invite to chat on Telegram today. I am worried about the connects I lost in that bid!

Community Manager
Community Manager

Hi Martha, 


When a job is removed by Upwork, Connects used to apply for it is returned. If that doesn't happen automatically, the team would sometimes return Connects manually.

~ Avery

I think if people just keep in mind that if you send a proposal back and they try and get you to pay for something or move you away from Upwork, then flag it as not appropriate or report to customer service and move on to the next proposal. There are great clients out there, you just need to have your head screwed on and be wise and aware.

Are there ways to spot the good v bad in the job postings themselves, so we don't waste Connects?  I am normally very savvy but this is a whole different world of Upwork than when I worked with Upwork a few years ago.  Sigh! 

Well I'm right there with ya!   Only been here a couple of weeks and had two messages from proposals - BOTH SCAMMERS!   I didn't know what to expect - so you are right that they target newbies!   I actually spent 2 hours on a 'chat' interview on the first invite just to then learn they were actually wanting the work done outside of Upwork and wanted me to download questionable software on my computer so they could download documentation to me?  And then wanted to pay through a 3rd party source which meant give them my bank info?  Wow@!     Now a 2nd invite and it's started the same way - almost identical!   so at least I learned my lesson and will not accept the invite this time!  

Yes, I keep getting private #s for me to connect with them. This time the payment is verified?

Is it ever a good idea to connect away from upwork, or at what point?


Community Manager
Community Manager

Hi Amy,


In that case, let them know that sharing contact information before a contract has started is against Upwork’s Terms of Service and that all communications prior to the contract starting must take place on Upwork. We also encourage you to let us know if a TOS violation has happened by using the “Flag as Inappropriate” option throughout the platform. Please check this help article for crucial information that will help you have a safe and successful journey on Upwork.


Thank you! 

~ Bojan

I have also been wondering this. I understand that it is against Upwork's ToS to move communications about a job outside of Upwork, but if someone does this, does it automatically mean it's something scammy or could it be a real job and the poster either does not know/care that it's against the rules? Esp if they appear to have followed through and paid other people for previous jobs?

Someone responded to my proposal with an invitation to schedule and join a meeting on Skype.

Is this common on Upwork or a scam as well? 

Hi Cierra,


Communicating outside of Upwork before a contract starts is considered a violation of the Terms of Service. You should avoid communicating with the client in question outside the platform if you don't have a contract yet. After a contract is established, you are free to use any communication channel you choose. Feel free to check this help article for more information on how to report suspicious user activity. In addition, you may want to check this Upwork Academy course about staying safe on Upwork.

~ Luiggi
Community Member

I am just finding this now. I have been on this site for a month and have had conversations that are all scams or are fishy more than legitimate conversations (I've had two of those to about 4-5 scam or unprofessional correspondences). Please tell me there's decent work to be found for writers and editors; otherwise, I'm going to delete my profile. Frustrating to waste time on people with no real interest in hiring you. I think this information needs to be more prominently displayed. This is a huge community and I think they target newbies with no job history on Upwork. (that's me) in order to get us hooked. 

@Carrie H wrote:

I am just finding this now. I have been on this site for a month and have had conversations that are all scams or are fishy more than legitimate conversations (I've had two of those to about 4-5 scam or unprofessional correspondences). Please tell me there's decent work to be found for writers and editors; otherwise, I'm going to delete my profile. Frustrating to waste time on people with no real interest in hiring you. I think this information needs to be more prominently displayed. This is a huge community and I think they target newbies with no job history on Upwork. (that's me) in order to get us hooked. 

Carrie, some time ago, I and others urged (more than once) that this post be made more prominent. Of course, nothing was done. I think it is a question of hierarchy within the company. Upwork employees' feelings get hurt at the expense of new freelancers.

I realize I am replying to an old post, but I think you are right about scammers targeting "newbies".  There are good jobs on Upwork. I've been on Upwork for more than a year.  I haven't had a scam request in some time, and the work load has steadily increased.  I think it was a month or two before I got my first contract. 


I have found that I have to actively work to get new work.  I pay for the "Pro" service so I have lot's of connects.  I don't use them all, but I use a lot of them.  Some of the proposals are a waste of time, and I think I've gotten better at spotting "tire kickers" who don't have a clue as to what they are wanting, or what it is likely to cost, but I consider it just part of "sales".  (I track the time I spend on sales and marketing.)  And I consider the Upwork fee a part of "marketing".  It is reasonable for me, but then I have had several projects where the total was high enough to see major drops in the fee.)


If you see this, I would be interested in knowing how it is going for you now, as it has been almost a year since your post.

That's me too.  No work history, so I took a low paying job making less than $10 for 800 word articles about HVAC problems!!  The hirer is just thrilled because I am an excellent writer and I can put anything into words, even stuff I know nothing about.  This man took a chance on a newbie. Now I am building reputation and 5 star experience.  I do hope this activity on my part will deter the scammers if not keep them away.  I received my first scam and discovered it only by using Upwork messaging.  I emailed my original contact and I received this message:  


**Edited for Community Guidelines**


I do not understand the nuances of this message but I figure if access needs to be restored, she has probably been caught doing something illegitimate.  Whew!  I didn't have any idea this sort of thing was going on at Upwork until I came here after receiving the info about **Edited for Community Guidelines**


Hello, I just saw this, but only AFTER I had been scammed. This would be amazing if it were emailed to new freelancers who have just signed up or, as Nichola said, posted in a more visible area. Is it because you are afraid of advertising that people can get scammed on Upwork to new freelancers? 

Hello, how were you able to get out of your scam?
Community Member

I'm new to Upwork, the prospect client is asking for my email to send her template to check how long will I gonna finish a work. We did not yet close the deal. Any advise? Thanks.

Hi Josephine,


I would just like to confirm, is the client asking you to send sample work? Please know that there has been an update to Upwork TOS, which you can read about in this announcementWe realize that some tools and services require the sharing of an email address to gain access. If you require access to a system before a contract starts, you may share your email address for the sole purpose of gaining access to a system. All communications, however, must still take place on the Upwork platform.

~ Joanne
Community Member

Thank you very much for your reply.

Perhaps a post that documents known scams so, list names like CJINK so that when new people come along, they can go to the post and just double check if the company they are being referred to has exhibited fraudulent behaviour.


I'm only a newbie but did a lot of research before I started, and thankfully I did. I can only imagine how many people have fallen for their "buy the workstation".


I actually did a bit of research into their company and what the official CJINK website and what the people claiming to be from CJINK say are very different.


It instantly rang bells for me as they were asking me to buy their workstation and make a totally refundable payment to have access to the jobs.



Katie, like I've mentioned previously (like in this thread here), a blacklist of names or similar is pointless, because scammers can read it too and they'll just use different names. They're already not using their own real name or company so it's no trouble to them to just change to a new name/company. Your second post with more general information about general things to avoid is a much better idea 🙂

When is Lena's post going to get official visibility?

It should be required reading, Nichola. I'm at the point where I feel like I need a template response directing people to it saved somewhere so I can just copy-paste...

How do I report a suspicious offer? I see a link to go to Customer Support but that only leads me to this community. This 'company' said they intend to work with me off of Upwork and they pay through check or bank transfer. I told them I only wanted to work through Upwork and they agreed. Then I noticed they did not have a verified billing method. When I told them the non-verified billing method disqualified me for Upwork's Hourly Protection they said 'goodbye'. I am new and this was my first offer.

You can report them through the Job posting page (Flag as inappropriate) or the Messages center (Gear button> Report message)



This 'company' said they intend to work with me off of Upwork and they pay through check

It's a scam!

Thank you Mohammed. I appreciate the specific instructions and was able to see the 'flag' button on the job description. Is it good policy to only apply for jobs that have verified payment?

Hi Krista,


Mohammed is correct. By flagging the job, our team can review and take appropriate actions. Please also check out Tips to avoid questionable jobs. You might also want to check out the information here to learn more about staying safe on Upwork. 


I'd like to note that receiving and paying outside of Upwork is a violation of Upwork TOS. All payments should be done on Upwork only. 

~ Joanne
Community Member

Thank you Joanne. I was glad I had read through some of the safety protocols before communicating with these people. Now I plan to only apply for jobs that are payment verified - hopefully that will help.

You're welcome Krista! Unverified payment method is not necessarily a red flag, there are a lot of legitimate clients just starting on Upwork who haven't verified their payment method yet.


The important thing is to not start any work until the payment method is verified & you have a contract in place.

Scammers are mostly targeting new freelancers, so you have to be careful!

Yes this is totally a good idea as new user of Upwork, I myself almost fell into a scamming activities but took the effort to do some research on the client who offered me the task. 

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