Top 10 Upwork Scams to Avoid in 2023

If you’re looking to upskill your career and start your freelancing journey, Upwork is probably one of the first platforms you’d consider. However, you must be aware of potential scams that can may come across. In this article, you will learn the 10 most common Upwork scams to avoid in 2023 and how you can effectively report and handle these scams. So, without further delay, let’s quickly dive in.

[Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is based on the author’s experience and research as of 2023. Online platforms and scams may evolve, so it’s crucial to stay updated and exercise caution at all times.]

10 most common Upwork scams to avoid in 2023

Listed below are ten of the most common Upwork scams you should avoid in 2023. Along with the scam description, I’ve also written exactly what the scam looks like so you can easily spot it on the platform and find ways to avoid getting scammed.

1. The Fake Client

“Fake client” is currently one of the most common scams on the Upwork platform. These scammers present themselves as real employers and often provide you with attractive job offers, only to disappear once they receive your work. They might also ask for free samples or request communication outside of the Upwork platform. 

Spotting scam:

You receive a seemingly perfect job offer from a client with a glowing profile and great reviews. They claim to have an urgent project and ask for a free sample of your work to assess your skills.

Avoiding scam:

To avoid this scam, thoroughly review clients’ profiles, check their reviews, and communicate primarily within the Upwork platform until you’re confident they are genuine.

2. The Payment Bait-and-Switch

In this scam, the client initially offers a reasonable payment for your services, but after you’ve invested time and effort, they claim the work doesn’t meet their standards and refuse to pay the agreed amount. They might demand revisions beyond the project’s scope or use your work without paying you. 

upwork scams to avoid

Spotting scam:

You agree to work on a project for a client who promises a fair payment upon completion. You put in hours of effort and submit the work, but the client comes back with endless revision requests, claiming that the quality isn’t up to par. They refuse to pay the agreed amount and insist on a lower payment or even no payment at all.

Avoiding scam:

Protect yourself by setting clear project milestones, requesting upfront payments or escrow funding, and having a contract that outlines the terms and conditions of the project.

3. The Phishing Scheme

Phishing schemes are uncontrolled on various online platforms, and Upwork is no exception. Scammers may send you fake emails or messages appearing to be from Upwork, asking you to click on suspicious links and provide your login credentials. 

Spotting scam:

You receive an email that looks like it’s from Upwork, asking you to verify your account by clicking on a link and providing your login credentials. However, the email is a cleverly disguised phishing attempt, and once you enter your details, the scammers gain access to your account.

Avoiding scam:

Always double-check the sender’s email address, and never share your login information outside of Upwork’s official website.

4. The Identity Theft Con

Identity theft is a serious concern in the online world. Some scammers may pretend to be Upwork support staff and request sensitive personal information to resolve a supposed issue with your account. The purpose behind this is to steal your personal information and identity and use it with adverse objectives.

Spotting scam:

You receive a message from someone claiming to be from Upwork support stating that there is an issue with your account. They ask for personal information, such as your Social Security Number or passport details, under the guise of resolving the problem. In reality, they are trying to steal your identity.

Avoiding scam:

Remember, Upwork will never ask for your password or other personal details through email or messages. If you’re unsure, contact Upwork’s customer support directly through their official channels.

5. The Unverified Payment Method

This is one of the most common Upwork scams to avoid. When working on Upwork, ensure your payment method is verified and secure. Some scammers might hire you and claim to have paid through an unverified method, such as a fake PayPal account. Eventually, you’ll discover the payment is invalid, leaving you with no compensation for your hard work.

upwork scams to avoid

Spotting scam:

A client hires you and insists on making the payment through an unverified payment method, such as a personal check or an online payment service with a sketchy reputation. After completing the work, you discover that the payment is invalid, and you don’t receive any compensation.

Avoiding scam:

Stick to verified payment methods provided by Upwork to avoid this situation. Also, set clear milestones so that your payment is safely handled by escrow.

6. The Job Application Fee

Upwork is a platform where clients post jobs and freelancers apply. If you come across a job posting requiring you to pay a fee to apply or access the client’s contact information. You find the job posting suitable for your gigs, and you pay the fee, but the client never responds, and you’re left without a job and out of pocket.

Spotting scam:

You come across a job posting that seems perfect for your skills but requires you to pay a fee to apply for the position or access the client’s contact information. 

Avoiding scam:

Upwork’s business model doesn’t charge freelancers to apply for jobs. Do not pay anybody on the Upwork platform only to get selected for work.

7. The Non-Escrow Payment Request

Upwork’s escrow system protects clients and freelancers by ensuring payment is held securely until the work is completed and approved. Beware of clients who request that you bypass the escrow system and accept direct payment outside of Upwork. Once you deliver the work, the client disappears without making any payment, and you have no recourse through Upwork’s official channels.

upwork scams to avoid

Spotting scam:

A client offers you a project and asks you to bypass the Upwork escrow system by accepting direct payment through a different platform. They claim that this will save fees and make the process faster. 

Avoiding scam:

Accept payments only through escrow. Non-escrow payments do not have official transaction records. Hence, you might be at risk of not receiving payments and getting scammed.

8. The “Too Good to Be True” Offer

If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers may promise exorbitant pay rates or unrealistic projects to lure you in.  Excited by the prospect of easy money, you accept the offer without investigating further. However, once you’ve completed the work, the client vanishes, and you realize you’ll never receive the promised payment.

upwork scams to avoid

Spotting scam:

You come across a job posting that promises an incredibly high pay rate for a straightforward task that requires minimal effort. For example, $10,000 for writing a few pages of content.

Avoiding scam:

Always research the market rates for your skills and be wary of projects that seem too lucrative for the amount of work required. Trust your instincts, and don’t hesitate to ask questions before accepting any job offer.

9. The Plagiarism Trap

As a content writer, plagiarism is likely one of your greatest concerns. Unfortunately, some clients may ask you to replicate content from other sources without proper attribution. Not only is this unethical, but it can also get you into trouble with Upwork and damage your reputation as a freelancer.

Spotting scam:

A client hires you to write an article but provides a link to an existing piece, asking you to “rewrite” it in your own words. You submit the work, and the client approves it, but later, you discover they were using your content without proper attribution and claiming it as their own.

Avoiding scam:

Always create original content and avoid clients who encourage or demand plagiarism.

10. The Shady Business Dealings

Watch out for clients who want to involve you in questionable or illegal activities. This could range from writing fake reviews to participating in fraudulent schemes. In return, they offer good pay. Tempted by the money, you agree to their request, only to find out later that your actions are unethical and could lead to legal consequences or account suspension on Upwork.

Spotting scam:

A client asks you to write fake reviews for their products or services, promising you a generous payment in return. Engaging in such activities jeopardizes your relationship with Upwork and can lead to legal repercussions.

Avoiding scam:

Uphold your integrity and only take on projects that align with your principles. Do not get involved in any kind of fraudulent activities.

How to effectively Report and Handle Scams on Upwork

You’ve seen the most common Upwork scams to avoid. What if you spot one of these scams? How should you report the scam and effectively handle it?

In this section, I’ll share my personal experiences and insights on how to effectively report and handle scams on Upwork, ensuring a safer and more productive freelancing journey.

Reporting scams on Upwork

1. Gather Evidence: If you suspect a scam, collect all relevant communications, project details, and evidence of any suspicious behaviour. Screenshots can be particularly helpful.

2. Flag the Project: On Upwork, you can flag a project by clicking on the “Flag as Inappropriate” option. This alerts Upwork’s Trust & Safety team to investigate further.

3. Contact Support: If you believe you’ve encountered a scam, reach out to Upwork’s customer support immediately. They are there to assist you and take appropriate action.

Protecting Yourself from Scams

1. Build a Solid Profile: A complete and detailed profile helps legitimate clients find you. Scammers often target incomplete profiles.

2. Trust Your Instincts: If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Listen to your gut feelings and exercise caution.

3. Check Client Reviews: Before accepting any project, review the client’s feedback and ratings from other freelancers. This can provide insight into their legitimacy.

Navigating Disputes with Clients

Even with precautions, disputes can arise. Here’s how to handle them:

1. Communicate Diplomatically: If you encounter issues with a client, communicate openly and professionally to resolve misunderstandings.

2. Use Upwork Dispute Resolution: If you can’t reach a resolution, Upwork provides a dispute resolution process that can help mediate between you and the client.


In this article, you’ve seen the most common Upwork scams to avoid in 2023 and the proper way to report these scams and handle them effectively on the Upwork platform.

In the vast world of online freelancing, Upwork is an excellent platform for finding opportunities and upskilling your career. However, with great opportunities come great responsibilities to protect yourself from potential scams. By staying informed, vetting clients, using secure payment methods, and trusting your instincts, you can navigate Upwork safely and enjoy a successful freelancing journey.


Is it safe to work on Upwork in 2023?

Absolutely! Upwork remains a reputable platform for freelancers, but being cautious and vigilant about potential scams is essential.

How can I verify if a client is genuine?

Check their profile thoroughly, read reviews from other freelancers, and communicate primarily within the Upwork platform.

What should I do if I encounter a scam on Upwork?

Report the incident to Upwork’s customer support immediately and cease any further communication with the scammer.

Are upfront payments common on Upwork?

While some clients may offer upfront payments, it’s not a universal practice. Discuss milestone-based payments and have a clear contract.

Can I trust clients who offer exceptionally high pay rates?

Exercise caution with clients offering unusually high pay rates, as they might be attempting to exploit your services or scam you.

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