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.
Unfortunately, with over 17 million users on Upwork, suspicious activity does appear from time-to-time. 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:
- Disintermediation: When a client is requesting to take work or payment off Upwork, it is not only against the ToS, but it’s also an easy way for you to fall victim to a scam since you will not be protected by Upwork’s programs, like Hourly Payment Protection. Garnor wrote an informative thread about Disintermediation here.
- 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 than 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 and FAQs about Trust and Safety on Upwork here. 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.
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 . . .
@Garnor M wrote:
We'll probably keep it here for now, but will do our best to give it proper visibility for new freelancers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.