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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

I recently got contacted by someone at upwork for a graphic design job. They wanted to "interview" me over google hangout chat, which I thought was odd, but it was my first contact through upwork so I said ok. The job that they want me to do sounds too good to be true, is not the graphic design job I originally thought, and they aren't going through upwork. I'm a little bit concerned that this is a scam. I don't know how, and it seems legit, but some red flags are popping up in my mind. Can someone please help me/contact me about this?

The interview over Google Hangout isn't in and of itself odd - I myself have had successful jobs that required an interview over Google Hangout. Now if it sounds too good to be true, there is a decent chance that it is. Also, if it's not the job you originally thought, that's a red flag. Lastly, the fact that they do not want to go through upwork is almost certainly a sign of a scam - if they don't want to use upwork, then why are they looking for freelancers on it? I would tell them that you will not work outside of upwork, and ask them why they do not want to use the platform. 

It wasn't over google hangouts video call, it was over the chat option. So basically it was like texting back and forth, which is why I thought it was odd. They also want to send me a check to deposit into my account to buy software they want me to use... I don't know it just seems iffy! Someone help!

It is iffy, report it and move on. Or just move on. 

"Welcome, humans. I'm ready for you!"
- Box, Logan's Run (1976)

Don't do it 100000% a scam, they will offer a Laptop (sent to home), high hourly rate (~40$ or so/hour). but require some check to deposit into your account... similar friends here reported this last weeks, don't give them anything RUN RUN RUN

PS: they only send such invitaions to newbies...

Hi Chloe,


The job you are referring to has already been closed and actions taken against the client's account because they were in violation of Upwork ToS. Please, don't communicate with them any further. Check out this post for more tips on how to avoid questionable jobs.

~ Valeria
Community Member

This was so helpful thank you very much! 😄

Community Member

Thank U Lena for such a post. I personally experienced point no 1,3,4 and 5 in my Upwork career. I believe this post can be a great help who are new in Upwork or who has a little experience.

Good jod!

Community Member

Doesn't mention when clients ask you to list their goods on our ebay account. I nearly fell for this one. Thanks to the community board, I realised it was a scam.

re: "Doesn't mention when clients ask you to list their goods on our ebay account."


Always a good tip, Stephen.


There are real clients who need help with email, Facebook, eBay, Craigslist, Twitter, various social sites, etc. But real jobs will always provide you with authorized access to the client's account(s).


If a client on Upwork asks you to use YOUR OWN account in order to do a job for them, then it is a scam and in most cases it is explicitly prohibited by Upwork ToS.

Community Member

Thank you for posting this information. I only joined last week and am reading this information. I did submit a proposal for an ideal job that presented as an actual 'job'. Although, I'm not interested in a job, I would like to perform the work. The information presented offered benefits as well. 

Is it correct to assume that 'jobs' are not supposed to be posted on Upworks, but only freelance opportunities?

re: "Is it correct to assume that 'jobs' are not supposed to be posted on Upworks, but only freelance opportunities?"


Well, we're getting into semantics here. But basically, yes, you are correct.


Clients do not post "help wanted" ads seeking to hire people for full-time employment as employees.


Clients post "freelance opportunities."

But Upwork often uses the word "jobs" to refer to these "freelancer opportunities."


So if you were to say Upwork "jobs" are not allowed to be posted, you would be correct.

And if you said Upwork allows "jobs" to be posted, you would also be correct.


It depends on what you mean by "jobs."

Community Member

Thanks for the post. I am new to Upwork(a week old) and just received possible 2 scams already. One was a request to submit a proposal for a possible interview and the other was a request for an interview but using Google Hangouts. I thought that was a little suspicious plus the other one I haven't heard back from for 5 days and they wanted someone ASAP.  Thanks again.

Community Member

Thanks Lena,


I have just experienced, give examples 2 times in a row OMG .... I just realized that my prospective client has unfairly treated me. Next I will be more alert.

Thank you

Community Member

This is definitely an important article worth saving!  THANKS!

Love Ann Dougherty
Community Member



I am a professional architect.  I was hoping to establish myself on Upwork so I could work remotely and took on an immense project for pennies on the dollar.  I have put in three weeks of work, for three hundred dollars, and willingly have admitted I just want to see the project through and help the people get their permit.


So, I asked for the initial amount of money, so I can carry the project on, as the work will not even pay for my software (I was just trying to establish myself on Upwork); and I have done way more and beyond.


I created the permit documents and now they are holding my payment until who knows what...


It's a screwed up thing, it is interfering with my regular work and I don't know what to do.   I just want to get paid for the work I have done, and will enthusiastically move forward.


However, now, I want nothing ever to do with Upwork.  Upwork is just a slave labour system that rips off desperate people.  That seems to be the model. 


I am a professional architect who has recently designed and created construction documents for several dozen homes and here I am treated like an undocumented immigrant.  I put in some 60 hours on this project for nothing and supplied more than what they asked for, and will gladly help them achieve their Upwork goal, and they aren't paying me. I said if you can pay me now the minimal amount we agreed on, I will gladly be motivated to do any revisions.  I was basically getting paid my day rate for a weeks work, but I am not even getting that.  I am not getting anything.  I was hoping everything would work out, but it's not and I cannot even pay for my software, however the Upwork clients are getting a proven professional job for right now, nothing.

I feel like Upwork tricked me into this chastity.


Anyway, whatever.  As soon as I am done with this job (**Edited for community guidelines**) ;  of which I will never get paid for, I am done with Upwork.


I am a bit livid so my correspondence is a bit fractured.  It seems to me Upwork is not the friend of remote workers, but the tool of corrupt people that just want to take advantage of desperate people.  I'm starting to get an idea of the Upwork model; Upwork wants to exploit educated people in a thirdworld manner.  Work without borders, everyone gets nothing...



**Edited for community guidelines**

Community Manager
Community Manager

Hi Mark,


Sorry you feel this way about your Upwork experience so far. Upwork provides freelancers and clients with tools to connect with each other, manage their contracts, process payments, etc. Also, users can benefit from Upwork payment protection. It looks like you have a contract with a milestone that’s been funded in Escrow and you have just submitted work on it and requested payment. Your client has a period of 14 days from the most recent work submission on a milestone to review and request any changes, after which the funds will automatically be released from escrow to you.

~ Bojan
Community Member

I have been contacted by a scammer and would like to report them. I'm not sure where to report. **Edited for Community Guidelines**. Here was my original message:


**Edited for Community Guidelines**


I immediately questioned and told her I was not interested in providing my information and that it went again Upwork policies. 

Retired Team Member
Retired Team Member

Hi Sarah,

Please open the job posting and use our flagging option that is on the right side of the page, once you have reported the job our team will review it and proper actions will be taken. Thank you.

~ Goran
Community Member

I've witnessed a couple of client jobs that asked to modify existing After Effects templates that they have purchased.  I believe this is theft of intellectual property for the purpose of possibly reselling them as their own work.  What is Upworks policy when handling these types of requests?

Hi Mark,


Thank you for reaching out to us with this question. Check this help article for more information on how to use the flag option found on each job post. Once the job post is flagged, our team review it and take action as per our internal processes if it violates the ToS



~ Bojan

re: "I've witnessed a couple of client jobs that asked to modify existing After Effects templates that they have purchased. I believe this is theft of intellectual property for the purpose of possibly reselling them as their own work. What is Upworks policy when handling these types of requests?"


Mark: If you have questions about this, this is an issue you would need to discuss with Adobe, not Upwork.


As far as Upwork itself is concerned, I'm not sure how this would be seen as any different than somebody modifying an Adobe Illustrator template file to fit the needs of a client. Or a Microsoft PowerPoint template file.


Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see where there is a violation of any Upwork policy here.

Community Member

It’s been a while now and my client hasn't given me the work so he can release the escrow payment he funded. However, on getting the job I was asked for a research sample, more like a data entry sample and that took hours. Is it possible I was tricked to working for free and can he withdraw the funds?

Community Member

Nice post.

Community Member

Thank you for these tips. I am new to this platform and almost got scammed by one. They mentioned they were gonna send me a ck to buy equipment. Declined the job because it did look shady. I only provided my address, phone number and name of bank (no acct #).
Community Member

What if the client is asking me to make a purchase on Amazon in order to provide feedback on their product and they said, after I asked specifically, that "everything will be reimbursed for you in escrow".

re: "What if the client is asking me to make a purchase on Amazon in order to provide feedback on their product and they said, after I asked specifically, that 'everything will be reimbursed for you in escrow'."


It's a scheme.


The client wants other people to purchase items on Amazon.com in order to try to circumvent Amazon.com rules against paid product reviews. Amazon.com has specific, strict rules against this sort of thing.


If I want you to review something for me, so that I can get feedback for my own internal purposes, then I will send you the item directly. Or I will order the item myself from an online source and have it shipped to you. You won't need to spend any money.


If that won't work, then I will send you the money upfront, using the "Pay Expenses" tool. And I will pay enough extra to cover the 20% fee that Upwork will withhold from the payment.


You're talking about something that could end up costing you money, and which could also end up costing you your Upwork account and your Amazon.com account.

Community Manager
Community Manager

Hi Carol, 

Preston and I have responded to your same post on this other thread. As a gentle reminder, please refrain from posting the same on different threads in the Community as this is considered spam, and in violation of the Upwork Community Guidelines. If you need further help regarding the same concern, please don't hesitate to update the other thread and I'll assist you further.

~ Avery
Community Member

I just got scammed today. It was my first proposal ever on this site and it was a scam. Really sad people do this...

Here is their information so you can avoid it.

**edited for Community Guidelines** Is the phone number they have tried calling me on after I blocked them only to hang up once answered.

This is the email they used to contact me with job details **edited for Community Guidelines**

Name used:**edited for Community Guidelines**

They offered to send me a check in which I would buy office supplies with. Once I noticed this was a scam I reported them and they were removed. I told them they are a scam and they denied it multiple times. DONT LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU! Never take conversations outside of this platform. I have never used it so I was completely unaware how this worked...so now I know. Do your research, don’t give any information out over google hangouts.

Community Manager
Community Manager

Hi Hunter, 


I'm sorry to learn about your experience in Upwork and thank you for sharing this with the Community. I wanted to note that I had to edit your post because we do not allow posting identifying information here in the Community.  Just the same, I'm glad to know that you were able to identify the red flag, and reported the client to the team. 

Let me know if we can assist you with anything!

~ Avery
Community Member

Unfortunately I never got my credits back for both of the job postings that were deleted due to not following your guidelines. Can you please check to make sure they are refunded?

Community Manager
Community Manager

Hi Hunter, 

I checked your account and I can see that the Connects have already been refunded to you. You can check your Connects History page by going to your Membership & Connects page (Settings > Membership & Connects), and clicking on the "View Connects History" button. 

If you are referring to a different job post, please let me know so that I can look into this further.

~ Avery
Community Member

This is a very informative and helpful article, but the suggestion to contact customer support at the end is of no use... you can't ever get to a person, and as a freelancer which is having a cut taken by Upwork, we should have a great source for customer service... forums are great, and expert users are great... but sometimes we want to talk to someone within the company, and that seems to have evaporated.  At the very best, it's nearly impossible to find.  It's disheartening, because I worked with Upwork years ago, had a great experience - no scams, and readily accessible support (and they answered your messages, which hasn't been the case for me since I've come back to the business), and I recently came back to Upwork to find I don't have that security at all.  

Community Member

Thanks for writing these tips. I came from reading a message that wrote a client and asked me to send him a copy of my passport and my CV. I'm new on the platform and that was my first offer. I'm going to reject the offer 😞

Community Member

Hi, Yeah this was quite helpful especially for newbies like me who are eagerly trying to land a client.

Community Member

I wish I'd known all this earlier! I have had two online interviews (Skype) with the exact same language, assessment and "opt out of paid fee."


What has been compromised if this is a scam? They did ask for the name of my bank, but that's all.

Hi Susan,


I'm sorry to hear about that. I checked the jobs you are referring to and it looks like they have already been canceled for violating Upwork TOS. You'll notice that the Message room with the clients has also been archived. Apart from recommending this thread for tips on how to avoid questionable jobs, you may also want to check this help article for information on how to use the flag option to report any inappropriate content.


Thank you.

~ Aleksandar
Community Member

I just kudos ! for this
"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 than asking for samples of your past work or other questions intended to vet your skills before engaging you."

Community Member

A really useful post, thanks. 


If you suspect a client is carrying out "free work" on a large scale (small samples to a large number of freelancers) should it be reported? If so, where can it be reported? 

Community Manager
Community Manager

Hi James,


You can report any suspicious user activity by following the steps outlined in this help article.


Thank you.

~ Aleksandar
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