I didn’t even bother responding to his last request. There was no need. It was obvious what his game was here. By giving over my account information, I’d be giving him access to:
- My current earnings waiting for transfer into my personal account
- My bank information
- Other personally-identifying information
- My entire Upwork account
Even if his request was legitimate (it obviously wasn’t) account sharing is against Upwork’s terms of service and is also against the policy for most freelance platforms. Doing so would have not only put me at a scam risk but at a huge risk for losing a key part of my freelancing business.
How to avoid account sharing scams
Attempts to get you to share your freelance platform accounts are more common once you become successful and have a good record of solid work. Once that happens, you’ll need to be diligent not to let the appeal of extra earnings sway you away from common sense.
Anyone asking to share your account is likely looking to steal your account, or worse. That aside, sharing freelance platform or PayPal account information is also a huge privacy risk, as your account likely contains a fair amount of personally identifying information and financial information.
Of all the scam attempts on this list, a tax document scam was the only one that nearly took me in before I got wise to it. Thankfully, my suspicious nature took hold and I saw all of the warning signs before giving up my information.
Given the nature of the work we do, it’s easy to assume submitting tax forms is just part of doing business. Not so fast. In most cases, you will never need to give a client a W2 or any other form of tax document.
In the US, clients should only require you to submit a W2 if they’re paying you by check, or through direct deposit to your bank account, and they expect to pay you more than the federally mandated minimum for independent contractors that can go unreported on taxes (currently $600).
If you’re getting paid through digital payment processing services, clients don’t need to issue a 1099-MISC to you, and therefore don’t need a W2 or your Social Security Number.
How to avoid tax document scams
If your clients plan to pay you through a freelancing platform or electronic payment service, such as PayPal or even by credit card, you won’t need to submit tax documents to them.
The freelancing platform or digital payment service will be required to send you a 1099-MISC if you earn more than $20,000 through that platform or receive that amount or more through that payment system, and will likely already have your SSN and other information on file.
- Clients working through freelancing platforms should not be asking for a W2 or other tax documents. If they do, it’s likely a scam, or the client is grossly misinformed on their tax responsibilities. If the client presses you on it, don’t give in.
- If you’re working with a client outside of a freelancing platform and you’re not comfortable with giving up your SSN or other information that could be used to steal your identity, request all payments go through PayPal, at least until you’re sure you can trust the client with your information.
- Finally, if you do get a tax document, know the difference between fake a real tax documents. A real W2 will never come as a Microsoft Word document, for example (which it did when I received this scam attempt). The document should also have the most recently available tax year. If you receive a W2 file, check it against the most recently available document here .