Beware of Upwork’s Freelancers Spoofing Your PageSpeed Insights Score!

Beware of Upwork’s Freelancers Fake / Spoofing Your Lighthouse Score !



Sadly, there are freelancers doing potentially harmful things to clients’ websites. Ashik Ishtiaque Emon promotes his services on the Upwork platform with the slogan “95+ PageSpeed Insights score and load time under 2.5 seconds on ALL pages WITH 100% money-back guarantee?”

He has used a “Fake/Spoofing Lighthouse Score Method” on more than 300 clients websites charging an average of $300 for his services and earning over $90,000.

Upwork is aware of his activities and has earned commission of  more than $18,000 from his fraudulent activities.

This is what we discovered when we investigated a website optimized by Ashik Ishtiaque Emon:

Changes Made to Fake SpeedTest

  • Asset Optimizer  (Plugin organizer: available version in WordPress: 10.1.5, version was changed to: 22.1.4 to prevent updating. The plugin organizer settings are hidden from the dashboard and access is disabled).
  • Asset Optimizer Critical CSS Helper (Plugin organizer doesn’t have any add on and you can’t find this plugin on the internet. It’s just a handmade plugin to put the broken version of the site in it for speed analyzers).
  • Flying Scripts – Lazy Loads 3rd Party JavaScripts

Fake/Spoofing Lighthouse Score

Fake Waterfall Report Showing Just a Screenshot

Every speed analyzer tool sends a bot to the website to analyze it and show the report. Those bots have a name. e.g. "chrome-lighthouse" , "pingdom", etc. So, the plugin organizer detects the user agents, and when those user agents are from speed analyzer tools such as lighthouse, they get a FAKE version of the website without any css. n this way, the freelancer gets a  95+ score for both mobile and desktop.
Every speed analyzer tool sends a bot to the website to analyze it and show the report. Those bots have a name. e.g. “chrome-lighthouse” , “pingdom”, etc. So, the plugin organizer detects the user agents, and when those user agents are from speed analyzer tools such as lighthouse, they get a FAKE version of the website without any css. In this way, the freelancer gets a  95+ score for both mobile and desktop.

Real Waterfall Showing All Site Assets

Real Waterfall Showing All Site Assets
When an unknown speed test is used all 212 requests and with a REAL page load time of 7.1 seconds are reported.

Cloaking is Dangerous

This is dangerous to the health of websites’ SEO, as it is considered “cloaking.” Cloaking is defined by Google as “the practice of presenting different content or URLs to human users and search engines,” and is specifically prohibited in their Webmaster Guidelines.

Any action like this that violates Google’s guidelines puts a site at risk for penalties, where the site can be demoted in, or even removed from, Google search results.

Sadly, most website owners aren’t savvy enough to be able to double-check their freelancer’s work in this manner, but the key takeaway here for business owners to know is that a perfect score on PageSpeed Insights, especially now that it’s powered by Lighthouse’s standards, is definitely too good to be true, and therefore likely not real.

Editorial Comment

We reported to Upwork that more than 300 of their clients had potentially been defrauded by Ashik Ishtiaque and requested that he be suspended from the Upwork Platform. We believe there may be several other freelancers on the Upwork platform using the “Fake/Spoofing Lighthouse Score Method”.

It seems that no action has been taken and that Upwork’s clients continue to be defrauded by purchasing optimizations carried out using the “Fake/Spoofing Lighthouse Score Method”.

At the same time Upwork continues to profit from this “Fake/Spoofing Lighthouse Score Method” by earning commissions.

Upwork’s platform does not comply with the EU GPDR regulations because clients can not modify or delete their reviews of freelancers’ performance.

Shannen of Upwork’s legal department declined to comment on the results of our investigation and the fact that their platform fails to comply with European regulations.

Citations:

1 – Google’s Not Fooled By Fake Lighthouse Scores by Matt Southern of Search Engine Journal dated 26 August 2021.

2 – Is Your Web Developer Spoofing Your PageSpeed Insights Score? by Pam Aungst dated 28 June 2019.

3 – Google’s John says Fake Lighthouse Scores Won’t Help Rank Higher by Rudra Kasturi dated 1 September 2021.

4 – Could and should I fake PageSpeed Insights? by Erwin Hofman dated 5 March 2021.

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