Scam Alert: Omarion Desmond

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 (omoode1@gmail.com)

Subject : GoTranslators - TRANSLATOR SERVICE NEEDED.
Dear Translator,

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.

Regards,
Omarion Desmond.


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. 


13 comments:

Anonymous said...

There are tons of scammers around and there is no need to send all the details every time. The common elements are:
1) They are very eager and prompt with payment, and often don't even ask for your rate (obviously, since they are not supposed to pay you anyway!)
2) Often they don't write in correct English and never from a corporate address, and when you ask them, they will ignore your request.
3) Often they do not even specify their language combination, and they write a mass e-mail.
4) Furthermore, it is easy to find out whether they are scammers, since they are stupid enough to use always the same name and a quick search online will reveal the scam.
5) A little bit of common sense is enough to avoid to be scammed. I have been in this business for 16 years and never got scammed.
Best,
Giusi

Thomas Gruber on December 21, 2010 at 11:42 AM said...

"no need to send all the details every time" and "since they are stupid enough to use always the same name and a quick search online will reveal the scam" dosen#t fit together. If no one posts this scams online then a "quick search online" dosen#t get you anywhere. The more people post this scams the better.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on December 21, 2010 at 12:49 PM said...

@Giusi: thanks for commenting, dear Giusi! We do think it can't hurt to post as many details as possible. You are, of course, right that many scams tend to have elements in common, but scammers are getting more sophisticated, so to help our colleagues stay ahead of them, we like to share the available info. That's absolutely wonderful that you have never been scammed -- you are very smart and savvy. Unfortunately, there are many highly experienced translators who have fallen for this scams. Knowledge is power.:)

@Thomas: agreed. There is no information on some scammers, while there is a lot on others. Our blog posts are an effort to increase the amount of reliable information that's available.

Sandra Schindler on January 5, 2011 at 2:54 AM said...

I think it is a good idea to warn colleagues all the time. I am also very much in favor of warning colleagues about clients who don't pay.

What makes this difficult is the different regulations in different countries. I know, Dagmar and Judy, that in your latest book you encourage others to write about just anything in their blogs. I consulted with a German lawyer on that, because I wasn't so sure regarding Germany. In fact, he advised me to be careful, because otherwise I might easily end up with a libel action. How mean is that? I had this one client last year, who still owes me a whole bunch of money, but not only will I never get it (responsible lawyer said legal action was useless and I should rather spend my money on something more useful), but I can also not warn my colleagues, at least not mentioning his real name. So he can go on fooling others and there is nothing that can be done about it. :(

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on January 9, 2011 at 8:03 PM said...

Thanks for the comment, Sandra! Unfortunately, it had erroneously been marked as "spam" by the system, but we have now recovered it.

You did the right thing to consult with a lawyer to get the inside scoop on the situation in Germany. We also regularly consult with our pro bono (yay!) legal counsel here in the US, and basically, what we are told is that if we publish something that's true, it's not libel (of course, there are always nuances). For instance, if someone owes us money and we write about that -- and it's verifiable -- than it would not fall under libel. When in doubt, it's best to be careful -- that's what we don't publish every scam warning that comes across our desks. It also depends how you phrase it. And, realistically, we do believe that scammers and people who are in default don't tend to go after people who call them out (even though they hilariously might threaten to do so), but it's always best to err on the side of caution. That is very disappointing to hear about your client in Germany -- could you still report the client anonymously on Payment Practices (if it's an agency)? That sure isn't a good business climate when the vendor has no protection, is it? Good thing you had a lawyer who gave you solid advice. We've heard that hiring a lawyer to write a stern letter does the trick. We are not sure about Germany, but in Austria, you can make a report to the Kreditschutzverband (but only if you are a member). Is there an equivalent of a Better Business Bureau, too?

Thomas Gruber on January 10, 2011 at 7:01 AM said...

As there is no place to post bad direct customers yet. Would it be helpful to have a iGoogle App for that purpose and get a rating back if someone posts the name and data of the client?

I could develop that in a view hours if I can help you all a little bit.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on January 10, 2011 at 9:53 AM said...

@Thomas: wow, thanks so much for your generous offer -- you are so amazing! Let's see if we hear back from Sandra; we bet she will be delighted. :)

Thomas Gruber on January 17, 2011 at 11:00 AM said...

I've developed an iGoogle Gadget for this purpose. You can use it if you whant

http://www.google.com/ig/directory?q=payment+practices+for+linguists&hl=de&root=/ig&dpos=top

as there is no record who added the bad customer you don't have to fear anything if you add scammers or bad clients.

Mark @ Odista - Serbia on May 26, 2011 at 8:55 AM said...

Thomas, the app sounds really useful, but couldn't that also be misused to sully somebody's good name without basis?

In any case it is good that people are sharing this kind of information - there are a lot of scams around of this nature, not just aimed at translators, of course, and people are getting swindled every day for quite large sums of money.

You know the old maxim - if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't.

Actually, I would rather lose a job than take on a suspicious project from someone I had never heard of...

Anonymous said...

Well, I really appreciate your comments on this issue, because I have been a recent victim of the same man.
The process was exactly the same as our colleague told as. I accepted the job last week and I got the cheque today (this time coming from France).
I was a bit confused because of the great amount of money, so I decided to check this man on the Internet, and see what I found!

Thanks again for your information, otherwise, I wouldn't have discovered the scam.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on November 16, 2011 at 5:27 PM said...

@Anonymous: you are very welcome, dear reader. We are happy we were able to help, and we'd love to know who you are. Isn't the internet a great thing? We are delighted to hear that our blog is a valuable service to readers and colleagues from around the world.

doff said...

I also got a job request from this man a while ago. I stated I wanted to get the money wired, not cheque, as the charges for cashing cheques runs up in the range of 50-100 Euro (Sweden). He stated they were going to add on enough to cover the charges. The job were to be in two parts, i had received the first part, which I had given a quote of around 1700 Euro for. I then received a cheque for 4000 Euro. Shortly after I got notified that the second part of the job had been cancelled and were requested to send back the balance. My alarm lights started flashing, and as I had not yet been into the bank I told them I'd rip the cheque and they could send me a new one. He said it was no trouble and that I should go ahead and cash the cheque I had already gotten. I finally got to the bank, turned in the cheque (first time for me), and ... which is kind of a nice surprise in this specific case, they do not pay out the cheque here, but send it to the issuing bank for collection. I had not planned to pay anything back in any case until I was sure the cheque had cleared, but in this case it turns out, I won't get a dime in the first place unless the cheque actually is valid. And, luckily, the deadline for the job is several months ahead, so I'll just roll my thumbs and wait for the money to turn up before i translate a single word on the job.
Anyway, whey you yourself have to make a payment to the client ... yeah, well, you shouldn't need to be MENSA material to figure out that you're in dire straits.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on December 6, 2011 at 9:48 AM said...

@doff: thanks for commenting. Yes, this one has now become a classic scam. Luckily, word has spread and not that many folks are falling for it. We think it's terrible that these scammers are targeting hard-working linguists.

Join the conversation! Commenting is a great way to become part of the translation and interpretation community. Your comments don’t have to be overly academic to get published. We usually publish all comments that aren't spam, self-promotional or offensive to others. Agreeing or not agreeing with the issue at hand and stating why is a good way to start. Social media is all about interaction, so don’t limit yourself to reading and start commenting! We very much look forward to your comments and insight. Let's learn from each other and continue these important conversations.

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