As remote work became prevalent in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Upwork grew most of its market share. As a result, many freelancers worldwide started looking to start their work from home to create a home office.
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Upwork starts facing the real horrors of scams on the platform as the market share grows in 2022. The majority of these scammers are contacting freelancers and ask them to perform an activity (such as buying their products after telling them that they need to be purchased to start the project, without telling the Freelancer that they’re the actual product owner) and later disappearing after that Freelancer makes that purchase.
Upwork’s legal team and customer service are in shambles, not knowing what to do in this situation. They will ban the scammer and the Freelancer if they suspect such a thing.
The real damage taken over here is with Freelancer, who lost their years of hard work to a scam that Upwork couldn’t prevent. In short, Many freelancers are being punished for the mistakes made by Upwork, and no one is responding to that.
A similar thing happened to me.
I used to be a “TOP RATED” freelancer with a “100% JOB SUCCESS” badge in the web development and SEO domain, and II was kicked out because someone scammed me through their platform. I tried reaching their legal team (Even before they found out that the other person was scamming). Still, they were non-responsive with no information on their website to get their legal team, exposing millions of freelancers to the scammers.
I was bidding on their platform (that’s the process of getting a job), and I got a reply to one of my bids; it was from a person claiming to be from Chicago, IL. I didn’t know it was a scammer at first. As he posted a job saying that he needed a website. I agreed because I earn by developing the websites online; he then asked me if I could handle the development of 20 websites, as he is looking for someone for the long term.
I got excited because trying to land such deals is a dream of every Freelancer because it keeps their focus. The case was the same with me as well. I agreed at a rate, and he sent me the contract, which I accepted. He kept pushing me to buy an “Expired domain” (expired domains usually cost higher than other domains as it is put up for sale by domain registrars); I purchased the domain word $202, and then he asked me to buy another one, promising me that we would want me to work on both of them together, simultaneously.
I bought another for $112; both belong to a guy in Lahore, Pakistan. Unfortunately, after I made the purchase, that person disappeared, making me purchase them; he went offline, and Upwork suspended my account, throwing all my year’s work in the gutter.
How do I find out that the person is a scam;
They gave me a fake address
I was not able to speak English properly
Dodging my video calls before starting the contract
He was rushing me to buy something.
Types of Scammers on Upwork
Here are the types you will come across on Upwork; if you do, please do not contact them even if they get back to you with a great deal of work.
Asking you to purchase something.
They will push you to purchase something for them to start the work, they usually hire hourly, so if you buy the things they’re making you buy, you’ll instantly lose your money.
Unverified payment method
These scammers usually do not have unverified payment methods because they do not use financial information to food Upwork by adding fake locations.
Offer higher price with a promise of long-term commitment
Their jobs will always be offered at the highest hourly rate to attract freelancers on Upwork. In my case, I usually get about $40 per hour for web dev and Search engine optimization jobs on Upwork, and this guy paid me $10 more at $40 per hour.
Dark Web links
I could log the initial three hours of work, and his card was also charged, which means he might be using someone else’s credit/debit card, possibly bought from the dark web.
Most would ask you something like, “I own a digital agency, and we want to build a site; our budget is $1,000 to $1,500. We need a simple site similar to THEIR LINK GOES HERE.”
The moment you click this link, you’re compromising everything. Freelancers must remain vigilant against various tactics, including the unsettling practice of catfishing, where scammers craft intricate personas to deceive, and the perilous allure of phishing links that can compromise your security with a single click.
What is Upwork doing to prevent it?
Instead, they’re penalizing their loyal freelancers, putting all their work lives at risk by banning them immediately.
Despite giving them verification and everything, they gave me this reply and put an end to my four-year-long freelancing career;
How bad is it for Freelancers?
Lose all the money
You will lose all your money as they do not allow withdrawal once your account is banned, so I suggest keeping all the money out of it. In my case, I got my $272 stuck with the account, and Upwork is refusing to pay it. They’re now not even replying to my requests.
They will permanently ban you.
They will permanently ban you without giving you any solid details.
No way to appeal
Once banned, you have nowhere to go and no one to complain to. You will be left stranded. Above all, they will freeze all your ongoing projects and seize all the payments.
Strange customer service
The most unkind and rude customer service I have ever come across. They do not provide you with anything solid before concluding.
What’s the alternative? What’s the solution?
The better way is to do something more directly where services like UpWork are not involved. The best idea is to have something of your own, create a website and use it to showcase your clients and work. Depending on Upwork can be the biggest mistake as no matter how many years you work, you would still lose everything in a minute just because someone else was trying to scam you.
The best formula to start is your portfolio + LinkedIn.