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Oct 01, 2020
Stay Safe Online: Paid and Leased Account Fraud

Getting an invitation from a potential client is an exciting experience... It usually means you’re on your way to starting a job and building your reputation.


Unfortunately, there are certain individuals out there who are trying to take advantage of professionals like you. They’re everywhere, and that sadly includes on the Upwork platform.


The Upwork Team cares about your safety and success. We want freelancers to get contracts and build reputations without being interrupted, so we’re doing everything we can to stop it. One risk that we’re seeing right now concerns Paid and Leased account fraud.


What Is Paid and Leased Account Fraud?

Paid and leased account fraud takes place when an Upwork account is shared, leased, or sold to another party. After gaining control of the account, the bad actor almost always uses the account and the real account owner’s identity to fraudulently apply for jobs or commit other crimes.

Communications are usually sent outside of Upwork, on messaging platforms or Social Media sites. 


Example of a Message

“Greetings dear. My upwork account was recently closed by no fault of mine. If I can use your account I will pay you $1000USD per month and more if i am profitable.

This is a onetime task and you will earn money every month

 Kindly respond”


How Is Upwork Dealing With this Fraud?

The Upwork Team has several safeguards in place to keep our community safe.

  • Trust and Safety checks. We’re constantly updating and enhancing our detection capabilities in order to help us flag high-risk accounts and improve our investigation process. Upwork’s Trust and Safety Team is a 24/7 investigation team dedicated to making sure all users are abiding by the Terms of Service. They’re always on the lookout for suspicious activity.
  • Detection systems and infrastructure. In addition to our internal teams, Upwork uses trustworthy, proprietary vendors who act as external consultants. We couple that with in-house detection solutions to help identify potential bad actors.

This infrastructure helps ensure all users are following our Terms of Service, so freelancers and clients can always feel safe and secure while working on Upwork.

What is the Red Flag for this Fraud?

Asking for personal login information.  Think of your Upwork account as your bank account. Would you share your bank information with someone who you never met? Hopefully not! There’s never a legitimate reason for a client or another freelancer to ask for access to your Upwork login information.

What Are the Consequences for Paid and Leased Account Fraud?

Sharing, renting, buying, or selling an Upwork account is a serious and significant violation of Upwork’s Terms of Service. There are a number of serious consequences associated with Paid and Leased account fraud.

  •  Fraud or theft. When Upwork accounts are shared or sold, the original account holder is susceptible to fraud or theft, or they may unintentionally become a participant of these activities. Activities include money laundering, hacking, financial fraud that the paid or leased account could be used for.
  • Identity theft. When a user shares or sells their Upwork account, they are sharing personally identifiable information with fraudsters. This opens them up to the significant risk of identity theft.
  • Legal liability. Sharing or selling an Upwork account opens up the user to legal liability with Upwork, victims of fraud perpetuated through the account, another company, and various government agencies due to tax implications and other legal concerns
  • Risk of account termination. Since it negatively affects our community, Upwork takes this issue seriously and we will terminate your account if we learn money flows cannot be validated.    

What can you do to help??

We have systems in place to protect freelancers from fraud, but sometimes bad actors bypass them. In these cases, it’s important for freelancers to recognize and report the fraudsters who are flying under our radar.

  • If you see something suspicious, flag it. You have the ability to flag job posts, user accounts, and private messages. If something seems off, there’s a good chance it is.
  • Cooperate with any investigation that takes place. If you flag something suspicious on Upwork, a member of the Upwork Team might reach out to you for more information. Try to provide as much information as you can in a timely manner so the Team can come up with a solution.

If your account is flagged for suspicious activity, a member of the Upwork Team will contact you to further the investigation. As long as you’re following Upwork’s Terms of Service and cooperating with our investigation teams, this issue will be resolved and you’ll be good to go.

Remember: When you flag and report suspicious activity, you’re helping yourself and other Upwork users have a higher quality experience on the platform and avoid the hassle.

We’re all in this together! Upwork’s Trust and Safety Team, along with our external vendors and internal detection systems, is dedicated to busting fraudsters and protecting Upwork users. If we have the help and support of users in this effort, we’ll be able to do an even better job of making sure Upwork is safe for everyone.