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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: 

131 REPLIES 131

Just had 2 offers like this for supposed "Recycling Business". Two different people, same song and dance. Do VA type work, but also purchase recycling equipment as needed via them sending me a check and using my credit card for purchasing. Also wanted to pay me a fixed weekly rate directly, instead of the hourly rate through Upwork. Smfh.

Hi Chris,


 If you see a job that seems suspicious, you can report it to us using the flagging option. You can read more on this help article and also, please 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. 

~ Joanne

Hi Lena 


I need I'm new on Upwork and this is my first job offer, however, they are asking for a security fee which will be refunded.  I'm not sure about this? Also, the payment method not Verified for this client.


**Edited for Community Guidelines**

Hi Bernadet,


I checked the job post you were referring to and it seems that it's already been taken down because it was in violation of Upwork ToS and action has been taken on the client account.

Please check this help article for more information on how to use the flag option to report any inappropriate content.



Good Morning 


Thank you so much for the reply and advice.





You have posted it long ago, but it still great.


Thanks for listing this up. I think if we are not aware of such activities beforehand, we might fall victim to it. 



Lena E

Thank you so much for your helpfull post.




My name is Princia and I have just recently joined Upwork. I submitted proposals for typing jobs. The client messaged me on Upwork with a number to text on Whatsapp or Telegram, then sent me a pdf of the different projects they need to get done. I was told that I can pick a project, then I would have to pay an 'enrollment fee' in order to start working with them. I found out later on (luckily without paying them any money) that they have taken away the job offer on Upwork but continued to talk to me via Whatsapp/Telegram. After doing research, I also found out that this is definitely not the right way to use Upwork and that they are scammers.


How do I get all my connects back that I used to apply for these jobs?

And how do I know when not to submit a proposal because an offer looks fishy?


Thank you so much for your help.

Hi Princia,

When a job is removed for violations of our TOS the Connects are refunded back to you. Please keep in mind that communicating outside of Upwork before you're hired on an official contract is not allowed. Thank you.

~ Goran

Still very relevant. New freelancers must read this!


Hello Lena, kindly please hook me up with a legit typing project. All I get is scammers and it's really sad because some don't even pay le after doing the job. I really need this side hustle. 

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