Scammers have been around for a long, long time, and it's nothing new that they have been targeting translators by using a variety of methods, including posing as clients and requesting your bank information only to wire you too much money and asking you to wire part of it back. Then, of course, you find out that the original money that had been sent to you was drawn on a closed account. This is a very well-documented scam and a disturbing one indeed.
The second main scam revolves around stealing actual translators' information and trying to "sell" fictitious translation services to unsuspecting clients using the real translator's information and credentials, etc. We even heard from a translator colleague who received an e-mail from a scammer who was offering his translation services, and turns out he had attached our colleague's CV to the e-mail! The way that particular scam works is that "translators" request work from unsuspecting clients, ask for payment in advance, and either take off with the money and don't perform any work or deliver a Google translation, etc. And of course the real translator's information is being used and abused, which is quite terrible. One way to prevent scammers from stealing your CV is to always make it available in PDF format rather than Word or any other editable format.
|You get the idea, right? Photo by Chris Floros.|
Now, hundreds of blog posts and articles in every corner of the world have been written about the variety of ways that translators get ripped off by scammers. The American Translators Association has published detailed information about this important topic, which you can read here and here. However, we recently heard about a colleague who fell for one of the oldests scams (the overpayment scam). With every business transaction, you need to use your common sense and your business skills to get a feel for the potential customer. Issue a formal price quote and have the customer sign it. Don't let anyone rush you. Ask for pre-payment via PayPal (or other secure method) if you have any doubt that the person is a legitimate customer. Of course it's difficult to know if anything is a scam until after you get scammed, but translators are smart people, so at the danger of repeating what's already been said many times, here are some red flags:
- The potential client writes from a Gmail address, yet claims to be a professor or other distinguished person. We personally don't do business with folks who have free e-mail addresses, unless they want a birth certificate or similar document translated, in which case we ask for payment in advance.
- The "client" seems very eager to get started with the project and is quite pushy and even insists on providing payment ahead of time, as long as you give him/her your bank information. Now, for anyone who's been in the industry for more than a week, it should be surprising that a client is so eager to pay. And handing out your bank information to strangers is just a no-no: that's what PayPal (or similar services) are for. Of course, in Europe, bank transfers are very common, and you could protect yourself by waiting a week or two to see if they payment has indeed cleared. Of course, no real client would overpay you and ask you to wire money back, so you should be on high alert if that ever happens.
- Many times, the writer will claim that he or she is going to a conference in ________ and is giving a workshop, so that's why they need a translation of their original article (attached) into ______. Of course, the obvious question is: If the sender doesn't speak the language he/she wants the translation in, how will he/she present at the conference in a foreign language? In addition, if you take the first four lines of the attached article (be careful with opening attachments from unknown sources!), you quickly realize that the article is from Wikipedia or some other source. It's usually verbatim.
- These scammer messages are riddled with grammatical and spelling errors and the sender oftentimes resides in Pakistan, Kenya, Nigeria, etc.
We don't want to sound unsympathetic, but any translator who gets scammed at this point perhaps did not do enough due diligence. Information about translator scams is widely available, and information is power. Add common sense and some business skills, and no translator should get scammed.
Finally, one translator colleague, J. Roque Dias, a Portuguese translator, has gone to the trouble of putting together an entire website dedicated to this. Thank you so much, J. Roque! What a great service to the community. Please have a look at the very complete Translator Scammers website. J. Roque focuses only on the very disturbing scam trend of stealing real translators' information, and he's providing a tremendous public service here.