Avoid Phishing & Malware

With over 17 million users on Upwork, suspicious activity may appear on the platform from time to time. While we take great measures to keep our global marketplace safe and we’ll continue doing our best to prevent or address suspicious activity, we also count on you to continue being diligent in protecting your information and access. Educating yourself and trusting your instincts are key to safety.

Start by following the general electronic security guidelines we’ve outlined to help you protect your computer and your information.

Keeping communication with other users on Upwork will also allow us to assist in protecting your security.

Here are some additional tips and best practices to help you identify and avoid potential phishing, malware, or scam attacks.

  • Circumvention: When a client is requesting to take work or payment off Upwork, it is not only against the Terms of Service, but it’s also an easy way for you to fall victim to a scam since you will not be protected by Upwork’s programs, like Hourly Payment Protection.
  • Phishing: This is when someone is trying to steal your password and information by directing you to a fake login page. Always double check that links or HTML files clients send you are for valid websites. Make sure the URL is correct, and never give out your personal information.
  • Free work: This happens when you’re asked to submit work before a fixed-price milestone has been funded, or you’re requested to do the job as a “sample.” If a client requests sample work, it should be paid. Avoid this by never starting work before the official contract start date and the first milestone is funded. This is different than asking for samples of your past work or other questions or tests intended to vet your skills before engaging you.
  • Payment for materials or to “submit an application”: Never pay anything for a client to consider your proposal/application or to work for a client, even if they claim that the money will be reimbursed. Although freelancers should generally pay their own expenses and have the tools they need to do the work, be very cautious if a client ever asks you to pay for something upfront or to pay them directly for anything needed for the project.
  • Check-cashing fraud: This happens when someone asks you to process PayPal payments, purchase gift cards, or requests favors to cash or deposit checks and money orders in order to send the money somewhere else. These checks or money orders are likely fraudulent and your bank can hold you liable for the funds, even if you have already sent the money on to the “client.”
  • Shipping scam: We’ve seen scams in which a client has requested to have goods shipped to you, which you would then repackage and mail elsewhere. These items can be stolen or purchased with a stolen card, and freelancers can be acting as the middleman.
  • Clickbait: Be skeptical if you’re asked to click on external links or sign up for websites, as you may be falling for a click-bait scam, where a website makes money off of the click-through traffic. Research the website before clicking to see if there are relevant reviews or red flags. External links could also potentially lead to dangerous malware/ransomware.
  • Personal info: Clients do not need access to your personal information, payment account information, driver's license, passport, social security number or other tax ID, tax forms, etc. Do not share this information.
  • Other flags: Jobs that advertise benefits, medical insurance, and training programs are often signs of a scam client. Be extra cautious with those types of posts.

Tips to Spot Email Scams

These best practices can help you spot and avoid email scams:

  • Take a moment to look at the email address – do the alias, sender, and domain look legitimate?
  • Consider whether the content of the email makes sense (Would a Nigerian prince really want to give you a million dollars?)
  • Watch out for messages urging you to act fast before you think.
  • Never respond to emails asking you to reply or call them with contact or financial information or personal information, such as date of birth or social security number (or other tax ID).
    • First, ask yourself if the the sender has a legitimate reason to be asking for this information.
    • Even if you answer the first question "yes," don't reply to the email or call the number provided. Contact the sender directly to determine if the request is legitimate. (For example, call the number on the back of your credit card.)
  • Beware of emails that contain links and/or attachments, and be careful before clicking or opening them. The easiest way to protect yourself is to not click on suspicious or unknown links.
  • Malicious links are the most common scam tool and one of the easiest to spot if you know what you're looking for. At first glance, the URL may appear legitimate, but…
    • The true URL could be hidden (a link's text can look like a URL, while link itself points somewhere else). Hover over the link to see where it's really pointing.
    • A link shortening service might be used to hide the malicious destination.
    • The URL may contain misleading typos, such as upvvork.com instead of upwork.com.
  • Ask yourself whether you're expecting an attachment from this person.
    • The only attachment file format that isn't a potential threat is .txt. Treat all other attachments as potentially malicious.
    • Attachments, especially Microsoft Office files like .xls could contain hidden malware, even if they pass your virus protection scan.
  • And when in doubt, confirm the message content with the sender before taking any action, including clicking links, saving/opening attachments, or calling the phone number. Confirm via a method other than email, if possible. If not, compose a new message. Make sure you are not replying to the suspicious message – that could go to the phisher!

Want to learn more about protecting yourself from phishing? Click here to read the Federal Trade Commission's detailed advice.

If you believe you have received a phishing attempt through Upwork, from an Upwork user, or about your Upwork credentials, please report it to phishing-report@upwork.com.

For more information about reporting Upwork-related suspicious activity by a fellow user that isn't a phishing email, click here.

Worried you may have fallen victim to a scammer's malware attack? Continue reading in Detect Malware.

For an overview of online safety and security best practices, please visit our Security Center. Or check out our complete online security series by clicking the links below:

Have more questions? Submit a request


Incident Status

Select your issue category and subcategory
Please share as much information as you can, including things like:
Attachment (for example, screenshots):
Add Files
    Popular Topics
    Provide more details:
    Attachment (for example, screenshots):
    Add Files
      • Discuss with Upwork Community

      Your request has been submitted

      Your ticket number is XXXXXXXXX
      We will email you as soon as we can.

      Our records show your Upwork account is not active.

      This might be due to no account activity (earnings, payments, contracts, etc.) or because we had to suspend it. When we suspend an account we send an email explaining the reason and whether or not you can take steps to reverse the suspension. Please review that email for more details.

      For general questions, you can visit our Community or review our Terms of Service.

      We’ll start a video chat with you. Please make sure you use a desktop device with a camera to continue the process. Also, allow Upwork temporary use of your camera and microphone. You may disable this access after the chat session.

      If all of our agents are busy when you attempt to chat, please hold, and one of our agents will be with you shortly.

      We noticed that you're currently using a browser that is not supported by our video verify process.

      We recommend that you switch to Google Chrome or Firefox in order to successfully complete verification. Thank you

      Upwork’s Category Specialists are standing by to help you discover and plan new projects.

      Ask them about roles or projects that you want to learn more about. They can also draft job posts for you.

      Your chat will begin in the bottom right corner of this page.

      Upwork’s Category Specialists are currently offline.

      Send us a message below and we’ll respond via email as soon as we can. You can also come back here during business hours (Mon-Fri, 6am-5pm PT) to chat with us.

      How can we help?
      Thanks for your message! A Category Specialist will respond to your message via email as soon as they can.