It's quite a troubling trend that online scams are increasingly targeting our industry, as scammers (mostly incorrectly) assume that linguists work in a vacuum or are not very tech-savvy (another incorrect assumption). Luckily, we have forums like these, in addition to outstanding payment practices lists and black lists, to share information and to educate each other. This month's scam alert comes from our dear colleague and fellow author Cora Bastiaansen of the Netherlands, whom we had the pleasure of meeting at a conference in Utrecht earlier this year. Here's her story in her own words. It is a scam that has been making the rounds in the U.S. and that was the subject of an article in the ATA Chronicle earlier this year:
On November 26, I received an inquiry regarding a large translation job through www.gotranslators.com. Since the gentleman who needed the translation service did not seem to work for a properly registered company, I asked him for some kind of guarantee. He understood my reservations and suggested sending me a check as a deposit. In addition, he promised me a second assignment at a later point. I was happy and reassured and I waited for part of the 1600 euros, the amount of the first job. His confidence in me must have been enormous, for he sent me a check of 5000 euros, which was, according to him, payment for both jobs, including the costs for cashing the check. Such a decent fellow!
When the check arrived, I was somewhat surprised: so much money, a check from a German bank, an envelope sent from Russia, and no note or letter accompanying it.
I was reluctant to cash the check -- it's almost like I knew something was up. However, keeping it in the house did not feel good either, so I deposited the money into my bank account a few days later.
I received e-mails from the client every day, pushing me to cash the check and asking me about the progress of the translation, which I had not yet started (was that my gut feeling?).
On December 14, I received a message from www.gotranslators.com warning its members of scams. I checked out the black list on their website and found my client's name among the swindlers, most of whom were from Russia (the stamp!).
Then I received another e-mail: the "client" claimed he had acted too fast and his boss had vetoed the second part of the translation. He asked me to send back part of the money via Western Union as soon as possible.
However, the money in my account is not quite mine yet: it is an advance payment from the bank while they wait for the funds to clear. But I could have accessed the funds, and I would have been able to withdraw the money that my "client" was asking for and send it to him through Western Union. And later, when it would appear that the check that my "client" gave me was a fake, I'd lose a significant amount of money because the bank would immediately reverse the whole 5,000 that they had tentatively authorized. Thanks to GoTranslators' moderators, I made no such Western Union transfer and I did not lose any money. What a relief! I just contacted my bank, told them about the scam, and I am now waiting for their advice. To be continued...
This is the scammer's original posting:
Sender : Omarion Desmond (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject : GoTranslators - TRANSLATOR SERVICE NEEDED.
I have a 20,000 words on to be translated from English to Dutch. Let me know if you are available and how much it is going to cost.
The lesson: if it's too good to be true, it probably is. We don't get a lot of fraudulent-sounding inquiries, but when we do, we do a quick online search of the text to be translated and usually quickly find out that it's a Wikipedia entry or some other publicly available text. Such as the case for Cora's "translation" -- she found it online. Thanks to Cora for sharing her experience, and beware of advance payments! Depending on your bank, it might take up to a week or two to verify that the funds do really exist, so even if the money is showing on your account, it's not yours yet. Now: why do banks make the funds available pending verification? Seems to us like they shouldn't, but that's another story.
If you have another scam report, please share it by leaving a comment or e-mailing us so we can share it with our colleagues around the world.