Translation of a Probably Scam Letter
Thread poster: Hipyan Nopri

Hipyan Nopri  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 03:55
English to Indonesian
+ ...
Aug 22, 2008

Dear Fellow Translators,

Today I was requested to translate a personal letter. I have not replied the request, but I have downloaded the letter.

Having read the letter, I conclude that it is probably a scam letter given all things that are too good to be true.

What would you do with the request? Just telling the person that it is a kind of scam letter and not translating it, or translating the letter to let him know by himself that it is a scam?

Thanks in advance for your responses.

Hipyan


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 17:55
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Make sure you use proper Nigerian English Aug 22, 2008

Just joking, on the title...



My 2¢:

Ask the client whether they received or intend to send it.

If they received it, tell them it's probably a scam as far as you know, and it would be a waste of time and money to have it translated. Maybe you can give them a link to some scam descriptions site.

If they intend to send it, tell them that it seems to be a scam, and you decline on ethical reasons. If they say it's not a scam, that it's legit business, tell them to go over the original again, because in your opinion it does look like a scam, and your translation won't be able to improve the impact their business will have on prospects.


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xxxsavaria
Hungary
Local time: 22:55
English to Hungarian
+ ...
My view Aug 22, 2008

How long is the letter?
I suppose you do not do anything too much bad or wrong by simply translating the letter.However,if it looks like an evident scam,replying to it would be a serious mistake.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:55
English to German
+ ...
Here is an article by Randy Cohen, an ethicist writing for the New York Times Aug 22, 2008

05/29/2005

"I have worked as a translator on mail-order campaigns promising money without work and weight loss without dieting, promises so ridiculous that I doubt anyone believes them -- no more of a lie than a horoscope or a fortune teller's whisper. I think people respond to such things because they want to tell their friends and families: I tried to lose weight; I tried to get rich. But these ads draw in big money. Is what I am doing wrong?

-- Josh Wallace, Montreal, Canada

R. Cohen:

"It may be that the suckers -- sorry, customers -- are content to buy what they know is amusing piffle, a convenient excuse for personal failure. But that still leaves your employers in the morally awkward position of selling printed lies: That's not entertainment; it's exploitation.

Even when employers are scoundrels, that need not automatically compel the resignation of the hired hand. We expect doctors to treat villains as well as heroes, even if doing so readies them for more villainy. But translators are not in a similar position of moral neutrality. Doctors consider the seriousness of a malady, not the virtuousness of the person so afflicted, because of society's interest in making medical care available to all. We have no similar need for multilingual deceit.

Some people are so peripheral to an unscrupulous enterprise that although they indirectly profit from it, their culpability is minimal. The cleaning crew at this dubious office need not be ashamed of waxing the hallways. You, however, do not operate at such a remove. You not only profit from these unsavory projects, you also directly abet them -- if not legally, certainly morally. The guy who copies these pages might not know their content; the translator does.

And so, if these campaigns are meant to harvest people's credulity or fecklessness, you should find more reputable clients. Perhaps you could work for Snoop Dogg, translating him from English into English -- or youth English into geriatric English for people like me.

(Readers can direct their questions and comments by e-mail to ethicist@nytimes.com. This column originates in The New York Times Magazine.)"

_______________________________________

The last time I declined a job for ethical reasons, I clearly stated the reasons why, namely that I do not wish to be involved.

Anecdote:

I once posted a question in the KudoZ forum - at this time I was translating training materials regarding data and internet security. For this purpose I had to translate / make up a "Nigerian style" scam letter. Having no idea how such a scam letter would sound in German, I asked our colleagues. The comments from the colleagues! I got bombarded by personal emails.



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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:55
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Check with your client first Aug 22, 2008

Assuming this is a private individual who has received a letter they can't understand (rather than a company that has a translating budget), I think you would be doing them a favour by mentioning it first.

If it's a regular customer, I would most certainly do that, and would perhaps offer to summarise the gist for a small amount of money (or free if it's a particularly good customer). For a few minutes of your time, you could be saving your client money and earning yourself a lot of client 'BrowniZ'.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:55
English to German
+ ...
Excellent point, Sheila! Aug 22, 2008

Sheila Wilson wrote:

Assuming this is a private individual who has received a letter they can't understand (rather than a company that has a translating budget), I think you would be doing them a favour by mentioning it first.

If it's a regular customer, I would most certainly do that, and would perhaps offer to summarise the gist for a small amount of money (or free if it's a particularly good customer). For a few minutes of your time, you could be saving your client money and earning yourself a lot of client 'BrowniZ'.


This reminds me of a very good client who once wanted me to translate a gambling website into German - I notified him that this particular kind of online gambling is unlawful in this country and declined the job. Speaking of kudos - I received a glowing thank-you note, saying that I probably saved his company a lot of trouble. And money.

[Edited at 2008-08-22 12:54]


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Hipyan Nopri  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 03:55
English to Indonesian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Everybody Aug 22, 2008

Sheila Wilson wrote:
Assuming this is a private individual who has received a letter they can't understand . . . I think you would be doing them a favour by mentioning it first.

Yes, the potential client is an individual person, and the letter is only one page.

I will tell him the gist of the letter and that it is probably a scam by giving my analysis and comments and referring him to the relevant sites.

Thanks everybody for your comments.

Hipyan


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Wendy Cummings  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:55
Member (2006)
Spanish to English
+ ...
similar Sep 11, 2008

I once received a job from an agency that I have a very good relationship with. It initially just looked like a horoscope, so I accepeted it. But after a more in-depth read through, and a google for the author's name, it turned out it was definitely a scam - of the nature where a "mystic clairvoyant" has predicted dark things in your future, possibly a death, but he can however cast a spell to prevent it from happening.... upon receipt of $100.

I simply could not justify to myself translating the letter and i told the agency. Fortunately they too had just realised what it was about and were happy to cancel the order.

I don't know who the client was (the sender or recipient of the letter), or what the outcome was, but i felt happy wtih my decision, and the agency respected my reasons.

If the client (agency or individual) is a decent person, I believe they should understand and appreciate your feedback of whatever nature, and then you can work together to find a solution.

If the agency is not a decent person (i.e. was sending the letter for unethical reasons) they it will become apparent quickly and you will be able to decide what to do.


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Translation of a Probably Scam Letter

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