Three UpWork Freelancer Scams to Be Aware of

The scam world is getting huge. Scammers make billions of dollars each and every single year. The numbers are getting bigger and the "cons" are getting "longer."

Scams on UpWork are more commonly reported on the client side of things, where the transfer of funds is more direct, but they also happen on the Freelancer side - and these are where the scams tend to be a little more advanced.

Significant effort is being put into social engineering - scammers will begin following you on social networks, build relationships with you, and aren't even afraid to hop on Google calls these days.

It's important to stay vigilant. If you follow the UpWork terms of service, it can prevent you from being scammed. The platform has also outlined a guide on preventing these types of attacks as well as how to report them.

Here are three common types of those scams:

The Fake Website FTP Login

This scam involves getting applicants to start work early on UpWork before the contract begins. The conversation will be initiated through the UpWork system but the contract will never be started.

The perpetrators will look to capitalize on the fact that many freelancers are forced to do their due diligence on a project and begin researching and working before a contract is in place. This is because in order to be effective as a freelancer, you have to be prepared.

The scammer will show you their "Ecommerce" store (or any other website really), usually with a strange URL, list of products, and a number of errors on the website. Often times a less frequently used CMS is what the scammers are using for this fake store.

Once presented with the site and the initial job details, the "client" will give you login details, and ask you to scope things out via FTP; They know that if you login it presents the opportunity to install malware on your computer.

Do not log into any FTP client (or any other hosting provider) without the contract being started on UpWork.

The Rev Share Scam

This is a scam where an offer is made to you for a rev share deal. The scammer proposes that they will do all the work, and you can keep 20% or so, if you just let them use your UpWork profile to bid on projects.

The scammer will throw out a large number of the money that they intend to bring in. They know that if they say they will make around at least $10K a month and you can keep 20%, that it will cause eyes to light up.

They will target US workers which are more likely to farm out the work in the first place, and who also know that they have access to the lucrative US market. They may also ask you to purchase a cheap $300 laptop and use a service like TeamFinder for the sole purpose of letting them log in and propose contracts.

What actually ends up happening is the scammers will bid on a plethora of hourly projects, and bill the clients, but never actually do any of the work. This will leave you with an unusable UpWork account, terrible reviews, and a number of other problems to face.

If it weren't for the fact that this is a scam, it would actually be a pretty good idea; but one that is too good to be true. It's also important to note that this is against UpWork's terms of service. You shouldn't be letting anyone else log in to use your account.

The Google Drive Proposal Scam

The Google Drive Proposal scam is done through Gmail and Google Drive. That means that the scammer will have a vague Gmail address, whereas in the other scams it's more common to have a Hotmail address or one less traceable by Google.

What the scammer will do is send you an email outlining what amounts to fake project details. There will be a thank you for "your interest" in the project along with a link to a Google Drive attachment.

In 2024, it's important to be more vigilant than ever. Scammers have infiltrated the Google search engine results (SERPs) by cloaking IPs and serving up different content, job postings, WhatsApp messaging, and other various platforms.

UpWork is no different. It's a targeted platform because scammers know the workers on the platform are actually making money. Here are some common signs of an UpWork/Freelancer scam:

  • Asking to do work before being hired for the project
  • First contact is outside of the platform
  • Against UpWork's terms of service
  • Odd looking websites, design comps, or web properties that just *feel* fake
  • Generic email addresses
  • A "Too good to be true" factor
  • Aggressive following on social media (following you on GitHub, liking your tweets, etc)
  • Odd remarks in communication