Subtitle: “Freelancer won’t give me my money!”
In the second of my series of posts intended to dispell the myths and set the record straight where Freelancer.com is concerned, today I’m focussing on the problem of Freelancer allegedly withholding money from their users.
There are, as I see it, two reasons why Freelancer withholds funds in your Freelancer account: 1) because you are new to Freelancer and have requested your first withdrawal, and 2) because there has been a dispute about the project, or one or other of either the buyer or the freelancer has breached the terms and conditions of their Freelancer account.
To discuss the first point: new users. I recently wrote to Freelancer‘s customer services team and asked them,
“Dear Freelancer. When someone requests a withdrawal from their Freelancer account for the first time, the payment is delayed for up to 15 days for “security reasons”. I just wondered what those security reasons are and why it is necessary to have this delay?”
The response from Sheila at Freelancer follows:
“For first time withdrawals there is a delay of 15 days for security reasons. Withdrawals are normally processed and payment sent on the Monday or Tuesday following the day they were requested. Withdrawals requested on Monday or Tuesday will be sent the following week. You will be notified by email when a payment is sent.”
(Compare this with what is written on the Freelancer FAQ page (see under Service Providers > When will you process my withdrawal? Almost identical! Thanks for your help, Helpful Sheila!) So when I asked them again to answer my question properly, this is what I was told:
“Our Billing and Anti-Fraud department manually checks where the funds came from and where the funds is going to. For withdrawals, they check on to what method was these funds were deposited (if it was deposited or earned through Freelancer.com)and on to which account are the funds going and if the account is valid enough to receive the funds. We also make sure that the Freelancer.com account of the user is in a good standing before releasing funds.”[sic]
You heard it here first, guys. So to the second question. Despite accusations of Freelancer being made up of “lying, cheating scumbags”, and cries of “SCAM!”, actually, I don’t think Freelancer does deliberately withhold or steal people’s money for no reason. As you may have seen in Part 1 of this blog series, you’ll discover that most problems originate with the users themselves and fund withholding is often a result of account suspension, which is in turn almost always a result of people not sticking to what they signed up to when registering their Freelancer account. Anyway. That said, there are occasions, as freelancers have reported on this very blog, where a genuine mistake was made – the user breached the terms and conditions, but holds their hands up and says “sorry, I didn’t read the terms properly. I boobed. Can I have my money now?” I wanted clarification on how these situations are resolved so back I went to the Freelancer customer services team!
“Dear Freelancer. What happens to the money in a user’s account if their account is suspended?”
And Helpful Sheila replied:
“If a user gets suspended, the funds remain in his account.”
(Come on now, Sheila, you can give me a bit more than that. Let’s try again.)
“But, Helpful Sheila, what good is that if the user cannot access their funds because their account is suspended?!”
…ever with a helpful answer, Sheila said:
“Once their account has been reactivated, users will again have the access to their accounts and their funds.”
(*head hits brick wall*)
“But, Helpful Sheila, what if the account is not reactivated? Say the account suspension was for a good reason, whether through malice or genuine mistake, but the user also had funds in their account that were obtained legitimately. Surely they are entitled to their money?”
To which Helpful Sheila said,
“With regards to issues like that, we normally forward that to our higher department for further investigation. They have to undergo a series of security measures before they come up of a decision.”
Well thanks, Helpful Sheila. You were really helpful.
To be honest, I’m not really sure what to make of Freelancer‘s security policies, but one thing is for sure, they need to be developed and made clear to users on their website. Account reactivation is currently achieved by Freelancer asking their users to send in a photograph of themselves holding a piece of ID – regardless of whether or not this method works, it is a *bit* weird.
Do any Freelancer users out there have any suggestions of how the site could improve security? *Be nice* – I’m trying to help!