The devastating effects of identity fraud are found throughout all industries, and the language industry is no exception. Chances are that if you are a language professional, your inbox has come in contact with scammers trying to use your name and qualifications to make an easy buck, or you’ve unknowingly requested work of someone who wasn’t who you thought they were. Fortunately, a new website has been developed to help translators and translation companies sort through these scammers and protect the integrity of their work.
In April of 2013, a Portuguese translator by the name of J. Roque Dias published a “Translator Scammers Directory” on his business website with a list of 42 names and emails that had been fraudulently used by scammers. Since then, the list has grown so much that on February 15th of this year, a new website, www.translator-scammers.com, was developed for the sole purpose of identifying and tracking scams in the translation industry. This website currently has more than 1,878 identified scammers.
This website is run by a group of translators, translation company owners, and IT professionals from around the world who are united in the effort to stop scammers and inform the industry regarding their tactics. Their website is very thorough, and it not only contains an ongoing list of identified scammers, but it also explains how these scammers operate and how to prevent your own identity and qualifications from being used against your will.
How they work
Scammers begin by finding translators’ resumes online. Usually they will change the translator’s name and the contact information, using instead a Gmail or Hotmail account and in some cases an IP phone number. They then use that resume to market to clients. If they are successful in luring clients to request translation work, they will use Google translate to produce something that looks like a translation, or they will send the work out to the very cheapest translator on the market. They will then send the client an invoice (which requires payment to a PayPal account that is different than their email address). As for the cheap translator that did the work, either they are paid a very low amount, or the scammer claims that their translation was inadequate, and he or she receives no payment.
How to protect yourself
Without your resume, scammers can’t use you. So the first step is to make sure that your resume/CV is not published online. While it is convenient for translation agencies looking for talent, having your resume for the world to see on websites like Proz.com and Translatorscafe.com is dangerous. Many wary translators now put “Resume available upon request” in their profiles, only responding to those requests that they find to be legitimate. Keeping your resume in PDF format no matter where you send it makes it harder for a scammer to alter it. As a translator, do a thorough check on any company or individual offering to send you work that you haven’t worked with before (and haven’t been paid by before).
The Translator Scammers Intelligence Group, which heads the website, also suggests inserting a photo on your resume. Translation companies can then request to communicate via Skype to verify the identity of the supposed translator. Registering your own domain, and listing the emails you use to communicate on your business website will help agencies know that it’s really you they are speaking with in emails, and that any other email addresses are scams. Be very wary of any emails from companies or groups wishing for permission to “market” your resume as part of a team effort to offer translation coverage. They are most likely just trying to gain access to your resume in order to make money off of it.
Agencies can do their part by checking any new translators against the Scammers Directory and taking necessary steps to be sure that the person on the other end of cyberspace is the actual translator. The Directory lists several signs that will help any project manager know if they are dealing with a possible scammer, including any email addresses being used “On Behalf Of” a different email address. Sometimes, scammers don’t even bother stealing another CV; they’ll create their own, listing qualifications that are just too good to be true (a list of university degrees and a long series of language combinations and specializations). The website offers a comprehensive list of strategies that translation companies and other clients can use to identify who the real translators are and who is just out to scam people.
Stopping the scammers in their tracks is a task that requires the help of everyone from all sides of the industry. Reading through the website, putting the preventative tips into action, and spreading word about this problem will protect us as individuals and as a community. Most importantly, if you have been scammed, or if you have identified a scammer, contact the Translator Scammers Intelligence Group so that they can add the appropriate information to the Directory.