10 Upwork Scams
& How To Avoid Them
Freelance marketplaces are great resources to jumpstart your freelance career. I know of freelancers and agencies who specifically use Upwork to get clients. But sometimes, these freelance marketplaces can get a bad rap. A “rush-to-the-bottom-dollar” and full of scams. But what exactly should you look out for? Let’s go over ten common Upwork scams and how you can avoid them.
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If you have ever used a reselling app or resource, you’ll see that most Upwork scams are common for resellers. So you should be able to catch onto these scams quickly!
Fake Job Postings
This Upwork scam is pretty straightforward. Scammers will create job listings that appear legitimate but are intended to collect personal information or payments from freelancers. Sometimes, these postings may request contact on a different platform, which is a red flag.
Only apply to listings that have been verified and have reviews from other freelancers. It’s essential to check how much money they’ve spent on freelancers. Sometimes, scammers for this fraud will only pay $100 to seem legit, even though it’s not.
If you have any social media accounts, you’ve probably seen a few of these scams. People will act as Upwork support and send you a message or email asking for login credentials or sensitive information because your information has been “compromised.”
Make sure to check the email or account that messages you. If it’s fake, it will have some sort of typo or special character. The message may not even call you by name, which is a good sign that it’s fake. Be sure to check with Upwork support so you don’t give out sensitive information to scammers.
Unfortunately, this fraud is incredibly common. Freelancers may receive a fake payment notification or check. These payments eventually bounce, leaving you with no money after you’ve done work.
Sometimes, you may receive a check with a much more significant amount than agreed upon. The scammer will ask that you send back the extra amount. But, the check will bounce, leaving you with less money than before.
So, only accept payments through Upwork. Not only is it safer for you, but Upwork provides payment security and helps you if you come across a payment scam. But only if you use the platform!
This is another common Upwork scam. Clients promise high-paying jobs, but then they refuse to release payment. They cite unsatisfactory work as an excuse. Unfortunately, at this point, there isn’t much you can do.
So, to avoid this, check their reviews. Only work with verified clients who have spent a decent amount of money on Upwork. It’s also a good idea to research the client and company before you accept the job. However, doing this doesn’t automatically mean it’s impossible to be scammed. So, keep a record of the work you perform when you contact Upwork’s customer support.
Advance Fee Scams
For some projects, you need specific software or materials. In this scam, the client will ask you to pay an upfront fee to use the software/materials, promising they will reimburse you. But they never do. Sometimes, you may not even receive the needed software or material.
If you have to pay to use a specific software or hardware that the client is asking of you, that’s a red flag! They need to pay for it if they want it used. Don’t accept any projects with a client if this is requested.
This Upwork scam is much less dangerous; it’s simply annoying. But it’s common. People will create fake listings that you can apply to. You may even interview with them. After you accept the project offer, you’ll find that it doesn’t exist, ultimately wasting your time and effort.
To avoid this scam (you may be noticing a trend here), research the client. Ensure they have decent ratings, are verified, and have spent a decent amount of money on Upwork. If you still fall into this scam, make sure to report them!
Bait & Switch
Unfortunately, this is another common scam. But it can be easy to get out of! Scammers will post one job description and listing, but they expect freelancers to perform a completely different and more demanding task. They want two or more freelancers for the price of one.
Just like avoiding the other scams, research, research, research! Ensure the clients have reviews, verified, and used the platform many times. If you find that a client is asking too much of you and the work is out of your scope, you can end your contract.
I know I’ve been telling you to research the client and reviews this whole time. And now I’m telling you that they could be fake! It’s confusing, I know. But trust your gut.
Some clients engage in fraudulent practices to manipulate their ratings and reviews. So, it may appear that they have many stellar reviews, but in reality, they’re all fake. So, make sure you look for specifics in the review. And, if you later realize that they’ve been faked, cancel your contract and report them.
This scam is also widespread on Upwork. Freelancers may be lured into providing personal information for fake background checks or interviews. They may then use this for identity fraud or sell it on the black market.
If a potential client asks for precise information on a background check or interview, it’s a red flag! A typical app that they use is Telegram for these scams. If they ask for you to use it, tell them you’ll only be communicating through the Upwork platform.
How To Avoid Upwork Scams
There are so many scams out there, especially on freelance marketplaces.
So. To avoid scams, make sure you:
- Verify clients – check their payment methods and ratings
- Use Upwork’s messaging and payment systems – avoid off-platform communication
- Read reviews – look for red flags in a client’s history
- Trust your instincts – if a job offer seems too good to be true, it probably is
- Report suspicious activity – use Upwork’s reporting system to flag potential scams
Upwork is an excellent resource for everyone, freelancers and agencies alike. But it isn’t always safe. Keep these scams and frauds in mind while you apply to listings.
If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.