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I answered a job posting on Upwork, and in response, "David Lee" asked me for my Skype ID. Because of a number of "issues" on my end, it took several days before we were both on Skype at the same time when this conversation ensued:

David Lee: Hi
David Lee: are you available now?
Fred Koschara: Yes, I'm here
David Lee: Great
David Lee: Ok, Sorry but I have to apologize something first.
David Lee: That the job posted is not needed anymore.
David Lee: But I have something to discuss with you now if you have time.
Fred Koschara: What do you have?
David Lee: ok, thanks
David Lee: I am from China and also a web developer myself. But I can't create account on Upwork.
David Lee: So I want to purchase someone's Upwork account. I would really appreciate if you can help me.
Fred Koschara: Didn't you have to create an account to post the job?
David Lee: Oh, it's just client account which I created yesterday
David Lee: not verified one also
David Lee: so do you work full time on Upwork?
Fred Koschara: It's one of the things I do
Fred Koschara: How would you "purchase" an account?
David Lee: I want to talk about the price.
David Lee: and pay immediately through paypal
Fred Koschara: I'm not quite sure what you mean. Are you saying you want me to give you my username and password, with my work history and profile attached? Is that what you are saying you want to buy?
David Lee: Yes, that's right.
David Lee: That means also you should not use it once I start using it.
David Lee: And I am willing to pay for it.
Fred Koschara: How much are you willing to pay?
David Lee: I am sorry but I lost your profile
David Lee: would you please send it again to me?
David Lee: oh, I found it
David Lee: you have only one job history
David Lee: is it Video verified one?
Fred Koschara: yes
David Lee: I can pay 600$.
Fred Koschara: hahahahahahaha I've spent 40 years building my reputation as a contract programmer and consultant, and you think I'd be willing to sell that for $600?
David Lee: You mean you spent 40 years to make this profile?
Fred Koschara: No, I only found Upwork about a month ago, I've been working in this business for 40 years
David Lee: I understand.
David Lee: As I said, I am Chinese.
David Lee: I am not so rich.
David Lee: But I am doing this because Upwork is only platform on which I can make earnings for living.
David Lee: I am impressed in your passion for work.
David Lee: Sorry, I thought you are young looking at your photo. lol
David Lee: 30s
David Lee: like me
Fred Koschara: that's what most people think when they see me
David Lee: They might be
David Lee: So would you pls help me this poor Chinese youth?
David Lee: (bow)
Fred Koschara: My Upwork account, and the credentials and history associated with it, are part of my reputation. You are going to find that an honest person will never "sell" their reputation, and that if you do manage to "buy reputation" from someone, it won't be worth the money you paid for it.
David Lee: I see
David Lee: I just want to by a Upwork account and use it to get jobs there
David Lee: You can remove those work history on it before selling it
Fred Koschara: This is going to make an "interesting" blog post....
David Lee: haha
David Lee: I would appreciate if you please don't do it.
David Lee: I am doing this for my living, being very serious..

(FWIW the lines about "Ok, Sorry but I have to apologize something first." and "That the job posted is not needed anymore." were repeated from when he first contacted me and I told him I was busy replacing a failed UPS.)

I've reported this incident to Upwork, but is there anybody else I should make aware of the situation? In addition to being unethical, it seems like doing this sort of thing should be illegal, although trying to enforce it on someone in China would be "difficult" at best.

How common is this practice? Has anyone else been approached with the same or similar scams? How did you deal with it?

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I am not surprised :).

This person has probably be banned and cannot attach his credit card or pass verification process. I am surprised you had nerves to talk to much to him.

I also saw guys asking you to open the account as they cannot do it. But mainly that is not true. I was asked to do this for PayPal: just open an account and remove your credit card later. No freaking way I would ever risk doing things like this.

This is a common thing. I would say as common as getting an email from a billionaire from Africa who is willing to send you his millions. Guys simply want something quickly thinking it would help them.

  • I "smelled a rat" about the time he asked for my Skype ID, and the first time he commented about the job not being available, I was certain it was some sort of scam. I just led him along to investigate the situation so I could report it. – FKEinternet Aug 21 '17 at 13:34
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I don't use upwork... but I'd respond to this the same way as if someone were to ask me to give them my social security number.....

"No thanks. I'm not interested."

And move on. I would have never had the conversation you had. I would have excused myself the moment purchasing my profile was presented.

The thing is you don't want to be a memorable experience for these people. You want them to forget about you and only remember you declined. If you become too memorable, there's no telling what they might do, or attempt to do.

  • There's a lot of validity in your advice re. being unmemorable. While I continued the conversation with the intent of "giving him enough rope to hang himself" that was also an expense with little or no return on the "investment" - I spent time on the chat, then reporting it, and on the follow-ups... – FKEinternet Aug 22 '17 at 3:47
  • Even if they were to "hang themselves" you can't do anything about it. Protect yourself... don't try and play "policeman". – Scott Aug 22 '17 at 4:15

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