Beware of Upwork scams

Use Upwork to earn money, not lose it.

An Upwork client message that includes two iCloud download links to files with more information on the job details and salary, and budget and marketing plan.

I don’t regularly search for work on the Upwork freelancing platform anymore, but I’ll still take a look if a client invites me to a project on it. And I got more invites to Upwork projects than is usual recently. Maybe it’s a start-of-the-year thing.

Either way, I was reminded of two questionable Upwork projects I was invited to over the last few months. Here’s what happened.

1. A potential money laundering scam

This was the job post for the first project:

"Hello My name is (censored), Senior Manager at (censored). We are from Australia and we need to register our business in Your country. We need to show proof we received 10-20 payments to your country. Afterwards, we can get approval to register our business in your country. We need to show proof of payment receive our company bank account. You need to transfer 280 Singapore Dollar (200$) Our company bank account. We can pay upwork 800$ for this project."

This offer was way too good to be true. I just have to transfer S$280 to a bank account to get paid USD$800 in return? It sounded a lot like money laundering to me.

There were other red flags, like:

  • The client (whose “name” and “company” I’ve censored) claiming to be from Australia, while their Upwork profile states their location as Sri Lanka.
  • The client claiming they needed to receive 10–20 payments to my country (Singapore) to register their business in it. To the best of my knowledge, there is no such requirement if you want to register a business in Singapore.

I reported the job to Upwork. And for good measure, I also reported the job to the Wise platform because the client wanted me to transfer the money to a Wise account (more on what Wise is later if you’re unfamiliar with it!)

2. Virus detected in the client’s project files

For the second project, the client sent me an invite with this message:

"I'd like to invite you to take a look at the job I've posted. Please submit a proposal if you're available and interested. If you are interested in this position can place a call directly in my calendar: https://calendly.com/(censored) *Job Details and Salary: https://www.icloud.com/(censored) *Budget and Marketing Plan: https://www.icloud.com/(censored) *************** NOTE: Attached is project information that must be checked. If the link has an error, it cannot be opened on the phone. Please download and test again on your Windows device. Sorry for the inconvenience."
The two iCloud download links are identical, by the way.

This job didn’t seem like a great fit because the client was looking for a Facebook Ads specialist, which isn’t my cup of tea. But out of curiosity, I downloaded the file using the message’s iCloud download link anyway.

I scanned it—it was a zip file—with my antivirus software, just as a routine precaution…

…and my antivirus software reported a virus threat.

I shredded the file immediately and, again, reported the job to Upwork.

To Upwork’s credit, it responded to the report quickly. Likewise for the report I submitted over the first questionable project. Both projects were taken down overnight.

Contrary to popular opinion, it is possible to get decent-paying jobs on Upwork. But as you look for these, know how to filter out the scammy jobs, too.

So that you don’t lose money while trying to make it.

More freelancer news

Higher Wise account limits coming soon

Wise is a money transfer platform for sending and receiving international payments. I use it to receive US-dollar payments from clients and convert these funds to Singapore dollars at the real-time exchange rate for a reasonable fee. After that, I withdraw the Singapore-dollar funds to my bank account.

If you have a Wise personal account, the max you can hold in it is S$5,000 worth of funds in any currency. There are consequences for exceeding the limit, including not being able to add or receive further funds to your account.

I upgraded to a Wise business account to get around this restriction. But following recent changes to the law, Wise personal accounts can soon hold up to S$20,000 worth of funds!

Which is great if:

  • You receive large payments
  • You’re waiting for the exchange rate to improve before converting and withdrawing your foreign-currency payments

The new law is already in effect, so we just need to wait for Wise to implement it.

Learn more about this news here. (It also applies to platforms like YouTrip and Revolut, which are popular travel e-wallets. So this should be good news for your upcoming holidays!)

(And if you’re curious about Wise, you can use my link to check it out and get a fee-free transfer of up to S$900 after signing up! This is an affiliate link, so I may get a commission for the referral, but at no extra cost to you.)

Self-employed delivery workers can claim tax deductions based on a fixed proportion of income

Previously, self-employed food and goods delivery workers could claim tax deductions only based on the amount of allowable business expenses they had actually incurred.

But from Year of Assessment (YA) 2024 (i.e. this year), they’ll have the option of claiming tax deductions based on a fixed proportion of the annual gross income they earned from delivery work. These proportions are:

  • 20% for deliveries carried out on foot or via public transport or bikes
  • 35% for deliveries carried out via motorised personal mobility devices, e-bikes or motorbikes
  • 60% for deliveries carried out via van

There are some eligibility criteria for claiming tax deductions this way, and you can read about them here. But it should provide a simpler option for workers who find it difficult to accurately track their business expenses (which is a requirement if you run a self-employed business).

This post was first published in my email newsletter on 18 Jan 2024. If you liked it, you can sign up for my newsletter here:

Tan Siew Ann
I’m a freelance writer for some of the most amazing software businesses in the world. On this blog, I share tips on how you, too, can run a sustainable and meaningful freelance business. Let’s forge your freedom. 💪

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