They use misleading tactics and figures to get you to spend money, a little here and there. But it adds up. So while they may be legitimate, they make a lot of money from unsuspecting novices hoping to make some money. It's like the banking scam where you round to the nearest dollar and you take the change (have you seen the movie Office Space?). Well, they make a few dollars here and there from millions of freelancers who never get paid (some do, I know). This is a very shady business practice in my opinion. Especially when they advertise these small purchase as if it will help us get awarded. But there are contradictions abound.
If you try to downgrade your account, it warns you that it takes about 30 bids before you get awarded (on average). But wait, I thought if I paid 10$ get my bid to the top of the list and to highlight my bid and do all of that other stuff, then my likelihood of getting awarded would be "very likely"
Well then after 30 bids I should get awarded 10-20 times, right?
This also implies that if you pay enough money then you will get awarded, even if you are not the most qualified. That's a poor business model, but it helps them make money (Freelancer that is, not us). From the perspective of the person posting a job, that's not a good mindset either. They should want the most qualified. Or they will hire based on their biases (which is something that freelancer cannot control).
It also highly favors older users, or users that have already established a reputation.
If someone has 40 reviews, and someone has 0 reviews, who would YOU be more likely to award the project to?
Listen freelancer, if a user has 40 reviews and has a 4.5 star rating, how much more likely are they to be awarded than someone who has no reviews? Is it 500%, 1000%, 2000%, 5000%? Yeah, you don't post those kind of figures because you would lose money.
If you are new, don't expect to be awarded even 1 out of 30 of your bids. Far far less than that.
It's a subtle scam, but it nonetheless a scam. You really charge $5 per test, every attempt? Really? Really? Foreshame, foreshame. It's not that you charge that's the real problem, it's that you lure us into believing that paying the $5 will increase our chances of being awarded by 370%! What a joke. And I don't want to hear from customer service. You are just within a corrupt flawed system, and you will defend because you are part of it. I know, I worked in customer service before. You are paid to resolve complaints. Well, my complaint is with the entire system of freelancer.com and there is nothing you can do to resolve that. It's a systematic issue, and requires fixing at the top. So please refund all of the money I was scammed out of and delete my account. I have sent 3 tickets already and it's been more than 2 weeks without a response. Bravo.
Edit after Lara's response:
Like I said, the foundation of this company is baseless. Getting rich off the naive dreams of others.
It's no different than Craig's List, only you don't have to pay to get work on Craig's list. It's full of just as much smut and junk as Craig's list as well. You say you are just a platform, but that's a big joke. Platform's don't get that rich off of the bottom feeders like me. I'm done wasting my time and money on your site. You should be ashamed (the owners, CEO).
Another update, 8/24/2015.
Customer service refuses to allow me to contact CEO or manager, or they may just be ignoring my request.
This is rather telling of the sort of company they are running. They do not want to take any responsibility or accountability. It's always our fault, or we agreed to this or that, or we did this or that. There's nothing wrong with freelancer at all, it's we who have the problem. At least that's the message I keep getting from customer service --whether its indirect or not.