Upwork SCAM: How Upwork is stealing money from hard working freelancer’s during the Coronavirus pandemic

Update: About 12 hours after I made this post and emailed it around town, Upwork reached out. They were very helpful and attentive. My account got reinstated and refunds made. I never did get a response as to why this happened to me but big companies can be complicated so I will leave it at that. I will keep this blog post up since it took so much energy but I would like to say that I’ve known Upwork since the oDesk days (I’m sure it’s changed) and they’re legends in the industry so I personally actually don’t have much against them, this was just a rotten situation that has now been resolved.

 

I write this post with deep regret as there’s enough problems in the world for yet another one. Upwork has blatantly stolen from me, and if that alone is not enough, they have done so during the Coronavirus pandemic. I’ve been a developer for over 20 years and have seen this platform grow from the oDesk days to what it is today. It saddens me very much to see such behavior in the market so please! take the time to read this post and understand that responsibility starts with every single one of us.

I ended my previous contact in December 2019 and with nothing much going on I decided to travel around Southeast Asia. After a few months of roaming around this beautiful part of the world, and getting stuck in Indonesia due to the virus, it was time to get back to work. Going through some of my contacts and not finding something I want to do I figured, why not give Upwork a chance? So I signed up, created a desirable profile, deposited $12 for Upwork connects and began submitting proposals. Sure enough! After about 10 days and 15-20 proposals I received my first contract! Excited to work again and that everything’s working out during these hard times I spent extra hours and worked very diligently to impress my first client. Everything worked out great, the contract was for $75 and the client was actually so impressed that he paid me $90 without even telling me 🙂 – I got my first 5 star rating! I received a message from Upwork saying that I need to verify my account. This meant I had to submit a government issued ID and have a video call to confirm my identity. The call went well, my US passport was accepted and my account changed to verified status. Of course I was excited so I logged into Upwork and continued submitting contracts.

This is my first blog post and I’m not sure how to gauge the amount of text so I’ll make this next part short and get to the screen shots and transcripts.

Monday morning I log into Upwork excited to see if I have more work. I see a RED note across the top of the screen saying “Your account has been suspended.” Immediately I began looking into the situation and soon enough I was exchanging emails with them. There was a week of back and forth between me and Upwork where they asked me to provide information and I did. I was as transparent and helpful as possible. After a week of mental torture due to not knowing what’s going on I received an email: “We’ve reviewed all of the information you provided, but will not be reinstating your account.”

I am now not able to log into my account and my $12 for connects and $90 for the contract I’ve completed has been stolen by this big ugly giant. To make matters worse I’ve spent a month working for a company that is abusing people while I could have been focusing my energy on my loved ones.

Since I received no reasoning from Upwork as to why I was suspended I think it’s only fair to assume anything, so with this in mind I’m assuming that this is actually a case of racial profiling. My last name is Armenian, which sadly angers some people who do not know me personally. Since I cannot think of any other valid argument for being suspended it renders the thought, “Did I just experience a moment of racial profiling”. Since there’s prejudice against Armenians, and Upwork did not justify a response, I can’t think of anything else. I’ve always understood this but never really been involved enough to experience it, so you can imagine how shocking this situation is for me. It leaves me speechless thinking that in 2020, during a global pandemic, the IT industry is still suffering from such bigotry. When the whole world is coming together to the aid of their neighbors regardless of ethnicity, age, gender or orientation, corporations are still allowing hate filled agendas to be continued. Considering how much of my life I’ve spent working, it makes me wonder if I made the right choice. I hope you understand that this is just an assumption, I know I do, but please see it from my perspective. They’re driving a train and everything in the way gets trampled; even though I truly believe that it’s you and me that is the foundation of this amazing communication industry.

Below are all the images and transcripts I’ve collected of my communication with Upwork. I’ve removed my name for security reasons.

Note: If you have similar stories please email them to me and once reviewed I’ll add them to this post: upwork.scam@hushyarn.com or follow me on twitter @ScamUpwork

Right click and view image for full size.

Here’s a screen shot of the email flow:

Login issue:

Proof that I spent money and made money:

I will add one screenshot of my transcripts with Upwork for authenticity sake but the rest I will add as text:

I will replace my name with ME for security reasons.

Rizza D (Upwork Help)
Apr 5, 10:46 AM EDT
Hello ME,

I’m contacting you today because I noticed some irregular activity on your account. In order to ensure your security on Upwork, I have placed some features of your account on hold until we can verify your identity.

We want you back up and running as quickly as possible. Once you click on the link you’ll see the documentation we need and learn how to upload it securely so we can review it.

This link will take you to our verification portal:

https://www.upwork.com/ab/
fivs/verify/1ATRKoq3LeYiK0z2mJhD9FsLeUY=


Please review the instructions located on the verification page carefully. It’s important that you send the specific documents we’re asking for. Following a successful verification, we’ll be able to restore full functionality on your account.

Thank you for your patience and understanding while we verify your account. Please feel free to reply to my email if you have any questions regarding the next steps.



ME
Apr 6, 10:03 AM EDT
Hi,
I contacted you recently before seeing this email. I followed the link provided and it’s actually blank. I don’t see any instructions there. I’ll attach a screen shot of what that URL looks like.
Thanks for your help!
Art
Attachment(s)
Screenshot_2020-04-06 FIVS.png



Hi Art,
We’re writing to let you know that your Upwork Support request (#28246913) has been received and is being reviewed by our Support staff. We’ll be back in touch soon.
To review the status of the request and add additional comments, please follow this link: https://support.upwork.com/hc/requests/28246913.
Thanks,
The Upwork Team



ME
Apr 7, 6:27 PM EDT
Hi,
I’m still waiting on a response for this ticket so I can fix any issues we might be having as I’d like to get back to work ASAP. The issue hasn’t changed for me. When I reach that URL the page is blank.
Please help!
Art



Cristina (Upwork Help)
Apr 8, 7:37 AM EDT
Hello ME, 

Make sure that you are using a supported browser: https://support.upwork.com/hc/
en-us/articles/211062548-Supported-Browser

If yes, go to https://Upwork.com/clearcookies  > Click “Yes, Clear Cookies” > Then restart your browser and sign into your Upwork account.

Re-try again by clicking this link https://www.upwork.com/ab/
fivs/verify/1ATRKoq3LeYiK0z2mJhD9FsLeUY=


Please let us know if you’re still facing the same issue.

Regards,

Upwork Trust and Safety Team



ME
Apr 8, 9:11 AM EDT
Okay so I managed to submit the required documents. Your tech department might wanna know that, even after clearing cookies and the restart, on Firefox 75 this page doesn’t load. I finally manged to open the page in Chrome. I’m sure you can see that through my logs.
Thanks for the help!
Let me know if you need anything else.
Art



ME
Apr 8, 9:33 AM EDT
Hi,
Actually, can you please explain to me why this is happening. I’ve already submitted my passport before. I’ve also had a video call with one of your reps and I’ve already had one very nice successful project. It’s just a bit of a shame because I’ve had quite a few active proposals and had a good feeling about a couple and then this happens – especially right now when the whole world is struggling and as you I’m sure know people are struggling with work – so am I…
I guess my IP comes up as Indonesian and that doesn’t look too good. If that’s the case you could have asked. I’m actually stuck in Indonesia right now but I am who I say I am and I do work nights here so I can be on the US schedule.
Anyways, a little bit of a insight into what’s going on would be a great relief.
Thanks for understanding!
Art



Alejandra M (Upwork Help)
Apr 8, 10:53 AM EDT
Hello ME,

I’m writing to let you know that we attempted to verify your identity, but unfortunately one of your documents did not pass our review.

The ID you provided is acceptable; however, the statement you provided is not.The statement provided doesn’t match with your address .

Please note that the statement submitted must contain ALL information below:

– Date. Must be dated within the past 6 months
– Your name. If you live with someone you can send the statement in their name as long as their last/surname name matches the last/surname shown on your ID.
– Your address. The address on your statement must match your address on your Upwork profile. Your Upwork address is where you hold permanent residency.
– Company name. Company name (letterhead) must be visible for the company that issued your billing/financial statement.
– Company contact information. Address, phone number, or website for the company that issued statement must be visible.

Please also remember to not alter or crop your documents. Send original document images with all four corners visible.

Once you are ready to resend your financial statement, please submit it using this unique, secure link:
https://www.upwork.com/ab/
fivs/verify/PwHrtCwu_cHMyoVQ767qd6ONHoo=




Once you have done so, please reply to this email and let us know so we can expedite your review process.

We appreciate your cooperation and look forward to your response.

Thank you,
The Upwork Team



ME
Apr 8, 11:42 AM EDT
Hi,
Sorry, forgot to update my address.
Still would be nice to get a response to my last msg.
Thanks,
Art



ME
Apr 9, 2:04 PM EDT
Hi,
I’m just checking in. It’s been over 24 hours since my submission.
Thanks,
Art



Kaye T. (Upwork Help)
Apr 10, 8:02 AM EDT
Hello ME,

Thank you for contacting Upwork.

To maintain a safe and trusted marketplace for all, Upwork takes action when we suspect behavior that would violate our Terms of Service or otherwise negatively affects users. 

Did you use any form of proxies (VPNs, colocation services, etc.) to access the Upwork platform? If yes, can you please provide an explanation as to why you used such services?

Please respond to this email with the information requested above so we may further assess your account’s current hold. We appreciate your understanding and cooperation in this matter.

Regards,
Upwork Trust & Safety Team



ME
Apr 10, 8:26 AM EDT
Hi,
No, I did not, and do not use VPN’s with Upwork, I have nothing to hide. As I mentioned before I’m stuck in Indonesia so my IP should be coming up as located in Indonesia. A number of Indonesian providers may show up as I work from my phone (Telkomsel is the provider), my friends house (not sure about his provider) and a number of coffee shops. If you don’t believe I’m stuck in Indonesia I’ll be happy to send you a copy of my current Indonesian visa and you can easily access Immigration websites and government flight policies to find out the current state of things in the world.
If a VPN did show up then it was for much less sinister reason than trying to hide from my job provider – as mentioned before, you could have just asked, I’ve been nothing but transparent. I have free versions of HOXX and SetupVPN installed on my Firefox to use with Netflix and while I’m usually on top of having them on and off at the right time I could have made a mistake. Both versions are free and I have no idea which IPs or Proxies they use, I mostly connect to the American servers to watch movies.
I appreciate your concern with quality and if my tone is moody it’s because I’m exhausted of the state of progress and annoyed that I spent hours researching and writing contracts just to be suspended by possibly a system flag.
If there’s anything else I can do or provide especially to expedite this process I’d be happy to do so.
Thanks,
Art



Stefan S (Upwork Help)

Apr 12, 5:59 AM EDT
Hello ME,

Thank you for your email.

We’ve reviewed all of the information you provided, but will not be reinstating your account. The decision is final and your account is permanently deactivated. I understand this is not the outcome you were hoping for.

Please know we are unlikely to respond to further correspondence regarding this matter.

Regards,
Upwork Trust & Safety Team

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