Personal details, W-9, bank account info and phishing
Thread poster: Sayda Pineda

Sayda Pineda  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:09
Member (2010)
English to Spanish
Sep 2, 2014

Some time ago I was contacted and "hired" to do a large project by a person who identified himself as part of a prestigious university faculty. He indicated that due to their policies before sending any files for translation they needed my complete information including a W-9 and a copy of my ID. The e-mail address seemed legitimate and so did their website, so I sent my information. So it was a reasonable request. I waited for several days after sending my info and contacted the customer by email. After several no response emails he finallytold me how sorry he was but it was against the University´s policies to sub-contract translations (it sounded weird to use a reference to some policies ... and then a reference to some other policies).

I contacted the University through their website telephone (not the one under the email signature) and provided the name of the faculty member, and the reason for my inquiry. I was told that the person, indeed was a faculty member. It seemed that the person made a honest mistake and I was relieved.

I receive a lot of scam and phishing emails (you won this and that..., I am a person from Nigeria... Your car isurance...We need to update your details for... etc.). All of them go to the trash because they are easily detectable.

I have received several emails where agencies or customers offer large word counts and tell me I am accepted and they will send files and P.O. However they request my W-9 and some of them even my bank details, as was the case mentioned above.


I have responded to some prospective customers that I will send my information after receiving a P.O. and files.

In about eight months two new customers understood and sent P.O. One PM was really upset and changed to a less friendly tone but sent a P.O. and three prospective customers never sent files or P.O.

I would like to ask other translators if similar situations have happened to them. How can translators tell whether their personal information will not end up in the wrong hands? Am I being paranoiac in asking them to send P.O. first?


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Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:09
German to English
Couple of issues Sep 2, 2014

First I should mention that based on personal experience, getting paid by a university can be a bureaucratic nightmare, unless the person requesting the translation is paying you directly, or the program/department has an established mechanism for paying for subjects or services (e.g. clinical trials, etc.).
You performed proper due diligence, something other translators should learn how to do.

I doubt if the faculty member was trying to scam you. I live in a large university community, and I can say with confidence that many, if not most, faculty members have little knowledge of their university's bureaucratic procedures.

Again, based on my experience, the typical informational paper flow for a new client starts with a request for CV/résumé/prospectus, and if there is an offer, a purchase order which may be accompanied by a request for a W9, then banking details if needed, followed by documents for translation. Requests may occur simultaneously, but I wouldn't submit a W9 or banking information on spec. without a firm commitment for a job. Some of my existing customers occasionally ask for an updated résumé or W9, and I don't have an issue with updating existing information.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:09
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
A PO is a must to do the work - Bank details are not! Sep 2, 2014

Sayda Pineda wrote:
I have received several emails where agencies or customers offer large word counts and tell me I am accepted and they will send files and P.O. However they request my W-9 and some of them even my bank details, as was the case mentioned above.

Asking for a PO beforehand is an absolute must in the case of new customers. Every reasonable customer understands this. If they do not, then they are not very reasonable. Do we want to work for unreasonable people? Probably not.

I can also understand the request for a W-9, although in most cases such request only serves internal policies at the customers and providing an W-9 before an actual job has to be paid is not a legal requirement as far as I am aware.

Bank details are a completely different matter. I would definitely only give such information when the actual payment has to be done and if I am absolutely satisfied that the job and the customer were legitimate. Ideally, with new customers we should use Paypal or a similar mechanism that keeps them from knowing our bank details.


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Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 07:09
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
Clients =/= agencies Sep 2, 2014

While agencies are quite familiar with the PO, that is not necessarily the case for end clients, especially individuals who often will have little or no experience in engaging the services of a freelancer. There are those here who like to use doctors or lawyers as analogies, and I don't recall ever issuing a PO to a doctor. Or a plumber, for that matter (yes there are problems with this analogy - as there always are when someone raises doctors as analogy - so don't bother).

In other cases the actual amount of work is not definite and subject to increase during a given period, say a week. To issue a new PO on a daily basis is needlessly time-consuming and a pain to keep track of, so what will often happen is that a rate is agreed to beforehand, either by contract or otherwise in writing, and the total sum is calculated at the end of the period.

And yes, there is nothing like the red tape and paperwork that comes with working with universities.


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JL01  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:09
English to French
+ ...
Request an EIN Sep 2, 2014

One can request an EIN from the IRS, and use it (on W9 forms, in particular) instead of one's Social Security Number.

See http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/How-to-Apply-for-an-EIN.

That takes care of identity theft issues which may arise from communicating your SS Number to unknown sources. Occasionally, a customer will state that their accountant won't accept an EIN for a self-employed translation provider, or such whine. My usual answer is "You've got all I'm prepared to provide, deal with it." and that's that.

When I am asked for ID (a rare occurrence, usually linked to projects involving US government, military or the like), I send a scanned copy of my driver's licence after blacking out a few digits, in particular within the Licence # and/or my birth date. No customer has ever objected to that.

I won't provide more personal information, such as birth certificate or the like.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 00:09
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
The PO is the very last step Sep 3, 2014

Sayda Pineda wrote:
I have responded to some prospective customers that I will send my information after receiving a P.O. and files.


The PO is the actual order to start the translation.

In theory (and normally), the PO is sent at the very end of the negotiations, when both parties are satisfied with the other party. Saying that you will only attempt to satisfy their desire for certainty about your particulars after they have given the go-ahead is a bit silly, if you ask me. Essentially you are asking them to trust you completely while signalling that you don't trust them at all. Not a very good way to start a business relationship.

A client may have certain constraints about payment methods that are too complex to describe (it may depend on many variables), and the easiest way for a client to determine whether he would be able to pay you is to get a hold of your actual payment particulars and investigate that specifically.

As for the W8/9 form, it may be a regulatory requirement for the client to have your form on record if he wants to sign a contract with you. That is what the W8/9 form is for, after all (perhaps the form need only be on record by the time the audit is done, but why wait, right?). The PO is akin to the signed contract, so by asking for the PO before you send the form, you are actually asking the client to sign a binding contract with you before he has gathered all the information that is necessary to verify the legality of the agreement.

How about this compromise: send the W8/9 form always, and with regard to the banking details send all your details except for the account number, telling the client that you'll send it as soon as you start the job (or that you'll send it with the invoice).


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Sayda Pineda  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:09
Member (2010)
English to Spanish
TOPIC STARTER
USE OF AN EIN Sep 3, 2014

JL01 wrote:

One can request an EIN from the IRS, and use it (on W9 forms, in particular) instead of one's Social Security Number.

See http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/How-to-Apply-for-an-EIN.

That takes care of identity theft issues which may arise from communicating your SS Number to unknown sources.


This sounds a very good solution to the W-9 problem. Thank you for providing the link, too.


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Sayda Pineda  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:09
Member (2010)
English to Spanish
TOPIC STARTER
Bank account info minus account number Sep 3, 2014

Samuel Murray wrote:


..How about this compromise: send the W8/9 form always, and with regard to the banking details send all your details except for the account number, telling the client that you'll send it as soon as you start the job (or that you'll send it with the invoice).


Sending Bank account details minus the account number is also a good solution.


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