Scam proposal to misuse my Upwork account

; Date: Wed Jul 21 2021

Tags: Make Money Online

On the freelance jobs website Upwork, some jobs are open only to US Residents. These "US Only Jobs" apparently go for higher fee's than the non-US-only jobs. This morning I received an offer from a guy seemingly in China who wanted to use my Upwork account to apply for US-only jobs. As a scam this seemed ingenuous, but since it was a pure unadulterated scam, and because it would be a complete violation of Upwork's terms of service, I've reported the scam to Upwork (and Guru.COM) who is taking action.

This morning I first received an invitation via Guru.COM to send a proposal for a "Web Developer" job, and a few minutes later I received an e-mail sent via the Guru.COM message system saying the person, "Wang Ying", would like to cooperate with me. This e-mail contained a link to a Google Docs document describing a scheme to inappropriately use my Upwork account that is at the least immoral, and certainly would violate terms of service with Upwork.

Both Guru.COM and Upwork.COM are marketplaces in which freelancers can find work. Folks who want to hire freelancers advertise positions, and others who want to work freelance look for jobs to take. Both sites have policies and requirements in place for ethical use of the marketplace.

I rarely use my Guru account, but have worked a couple dozen contracts through Upwork. On Upwork there are a large number of people from around the world seeking work, many of whom are in low-cost-of-living-countries allowing them to underbid the folks living in the USA. As a result, Upwork instituted a policy where jobs can be limited to USA residents. Apparently these USA-only jobs go for higher fees.

If you think about this, it creates an arbitrage situation. In other words, the difference in fees between USA-only jobs on Upwork, and non-USA-only jobs on Upwork, generates a desire in folks living outside the USA to somehow apply for USA-only jobs. That they are not allowed to apply for USA-only jobs is a barrier to those with good morals. To those with low morality, that barrier instead becomes a challenge or hurdle.

You have to applaud Wang Ying (if that's his/her real name) for the ingenuity to come up with this scam. It's doubly ingenuous to start the scam on Guru.COM and to target folks who also have Upwork accounts. You have to wonder what positive results such people could accomplish if only they applied their ingenuity to legitimate plans.

The scam

In the interests of documenting this scam, as a warning for others of what to look for. The first step was this invitation received in my e-mail:

This was quickly followed by this private message:

You'll notice the message links to a Google Docs document. A PDF version of that document is embedded below. Back on Guru.COM, I took a look at the job invitation, and saw that over 2000 invitations had been sent for that one listing. I knew that this offer wasn't targeted just at me, but had been sent to a lot of people.

What I did next was to look for ways to report this to both Guru.COM and Upwork.COM so they could take care of this scammer.

On both platforms the method is to submit a Support request. On Guru.COM the link for this is in the footer, and it's straightforward. On Upwork.COM it was a little circuitous. There is a button on the screen that pops up a chat window. You are initially interacting with a Chat Bot, and quickly I was able to describe the problem and the Bot opened a support ticket. That resulted in an e-mail sent to me containing a link to the support ticket, to which I added the details about the scam.

Within a few minutes of reporting the scam to both sites, I received e-mails confirming receipt and they were taking care of the issue. Indeed the job listing on Guru.COM disappeared very quickly.

About the Author(s)

David Herron : David Herron is a writer and software engineer focusing on the wise use of technology. He is especially interested in clean energy technologies like solar power, wind power, and electric cars. David worked for nearly 30 years in Silicon Valley on software ranging from electronic mail systems, to video streaming, to the Java programming language, and has published several books on Node.js programming and electric vehicles.