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Trust and Safety Update (December 2022)

Community Member

Hello Upwork Community! 

My name is Caitlyn, and I lead our Trust & Safety Operations team. Earlier this year I shared a blog post on the role that Trust & Safety plays here at Upwork. Today, I’m posting to share details about the work we’ve been doing specifically to combat job posting scams. 

Before I dive into the progress made, I’d like to acknowledge the frustration of our freelancers who may have been impacted by scam volumes earlier this year as they searched for legitimate work. Please know that we at Upwork have been treating this as a company-wide priority. Our operations, engineering, product, machine learning, and analytics teams have been working as one task force to help ensure we drive bad actors off of the platform. 

I’m a firm believer that transparency between our Trust & Safety team and our community is paramount in building trust. That said, transparency when it comes to fraud prevention requires a careful balance. The more we share about what we do to prevent scams, the more we show our cards to scammers and the less effective those measures may then be in protecting our community. With this in mind, I’ll be speaking to our improvements broadly and am intentionally excluding efforts that could be reverse engineered by bad actors. Please know that what I mention here is just the tip of the iceberg with regard to our work to combat scam. 

Over the course of this year, we’ve significantly bolstered our machine learning detections to catch new scam tactics. Scammers are constantly changing their approach to avoid being caught, and we’ve designed multiple, agile systems to create layers of protection for our platform. 

In addition, we’re working to carefully balance client onboarding ease with enhanced checks of client accounts. We know that bringing new clients onto the platform is essential to the success of freelancers who operate their business on Upwork and we therefore don’t want to be overly restrictive in onboarding. With this in mind, we’ve implemented various checks at multiple stages in the client journey. Some clients may be asked to provide additional validation at onboarding, others before sending their first message, and so forth. This experience is intentionally varied for different client accounts to prevent scammers from being able to navigate around these defenses. 

Last, but certainly not least, we believe that educating our freelancer community is an essential part of combatting scam on the platform. Scammers can only find success when they convince freelancers to move off platform and send them payments. With this in mind, we’ve updated the product with frequent reminders and education for new freelancers, hosted webinars, and Community posts. In addition, we’ll be launching in-product quick tutorials for freelancers in the coming weeks. The message is this: payments should only flow in one direction, and that’s from clients to freelancers. Regardless of how convincing the reasoning may sound (scammers can be quite creative), it is highly suspect if a client is asking a freelancer to submit payment. Freelancers can best protect themselves by keeping all communications and payments on Upwork. In doing so, we can combat scams together. 

Please know that at the start of the new year, I’ll be co-hosting a second webinar on how freelancers can protect themselves from scams. I hope you’ll tune in! 

Up We Go,