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Thread poster: John Fossey

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:55
Member (2008)
French to English
Nov 13, 2009

Just as a warning to others, I was approached yesterday by an "agency" in Togo (which, by the way, is just two countries over from Nigeria). They claimed to have a large project from the Togo government.

Fair enough, it must happen, but there was absolutely no record of their history with any of half a dozen translator's boards. They said they were willing to pay the advance deposit.

But the deal fell through when I insisted on the deposit being paid by bank transfer, and they insisted on paying with a bank draft. Bank drafts can be forged, and it could take upwards of 30 days to find out, when the "issuing" bank rejects the draft. Legitimate companies in countries such as Togo have no difficulty at all in making payment by bank transfer.

Generic email address + Togo + no record anywhere + unwilling to pay by bank transfer = no deal, as far as I'm concerned.

[Edited at 2009-11-13 17:57 GMT]


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:55
Member (2008)
Italian to English
tough Nov 13, 2009

John Fossey wrote:

just two countries over from Nigeria.


in this case you're probably right not to touch this, John. I feel sorry for the many honest people in African countries who find just working normally far more difficult because they have to deal with so much corruption. I know this because I have many friends from Nigeria and other African countries. I don't know anything about the market for translation from (say) Yoruba to English but I imagine it's a difficult market even though Yoruba is spoken by more than 25 million people....it would be interesting to hear from our African colleagues. I hate to say it, but any time I am asked to do any type of work involving an African country, I can't help being suspicious. This is very regrettable.

[Edited at 2009-11-13 17:34 GMT]


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Sara Mullin  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:55
Member (2007)
English to French
+ ...
Same here Nov 13, 2009

Hi John,

I also was offered this job (through another translator's website) and I was highly skeptical for many reasons. First, they refused to tell me the subject matter, only that it was "general". Second, I had to agree to do the translation first and then they would courrier the material to me in "3-5 days". There was no way to look at the quality of the text beforehand.

In addition to your searches, I can tell you that their company name doesn't seem to exist anywhere at all, neither does their street name in the city in Togo where they are based. Interestingly enough, if you google the woman's full name, there are a total of 17 ghits. Period. Which is a bit odd in my opinion.

I mentioned this to them, saying that since we had never worked together before I would like to see their website or anything that showed me who they are exactly. I also insisted on payment beforehand. No surprise, but they didn't reply to my last email (it's been over 36 hours).

However, for me they used a generic hotmail address (not gmail) that was certainly not professional at all (e.g. camel_happy21@hotmail.com).

There were a lot of warning bells on this one for me right from the beginning, I must admit. However, I still decided to exchange a few emails to try to suss things out just in case it was genuine... but I quickly came to the conclusion that something was wrong.

Sara


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:55
Member (2008)
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
There are many honest people in Africa, just not these ones Nov 13, 2009

Tom in London wrote:

I feel sorry for the many honest people in African countries


Which is why I went along with it as far as I did. In a prior life I used to deal with such countries on large contracts. There were only two ways to pay, perfectly understood by everyone - Irrevocable Letter of Credit for larger amounts, and for anything under about $20,000 bank transfer in advance.

Its unfortunate that legitimate companies in such places find it difficult to obtain credit, but the truth is they are quite used to it, which is why any resistance to such payment terms rings loud alarm bells.

Sara Mullin wrote:

However, for me they used a generic hotmail address (not gmail) that was certainly not professional at all (e.g. camel_happy21@hotmail.com).


Yes, that was another alarm bell I had actually forgotten - mine was from [unprofessional and generic email address removed] !!

And, yes, I thought I could get a satellite view of their address with Google maps, but no luck on the address.

They must have gone to a lot of work registering email addresses, bulk mailing, etc. - pity such energy isn't directed into better pursuits.

[Edited at 2009-11-13 18:46 GMT]


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Sara Mullin  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:55
Member (2007)
English to French
+ ...
Same email address Nov 13, 2009

Hello again,

I didn't have time to check the forum rules, but I assumed that we weren't allowed to post someone's email address but what you wrote is the exact same address that was used to contact me.



[Edited at 2009-11-14 08:07 GMT]


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:55
Member (2008)
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Email address changed Nov 13, 2009

Sara Mullin wrote:

Hello again,

I didn't have time to check the forum rules, but I assumed that we weren't allowed to post someone's email address so I changed mine to "camel" and used 21 instead of 1 but it's the exact same address that was used to contact me.



That's true, so I've edited my post, but I think the point comes across.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 01:55
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Bank drafts Nov 13, 2009

John Fossey wrote:
But the deal fell through when I insisted on the deposit being paid by bank transfer, and they insisted on paying with a bank draft.


I have never heard of a bank draft until today, and I would have assumed that it is a bank transfer. I would have provided them with a SWIFT code and waited for my bank to tell me that there is money from Togo waiting in the account.

I checked Wikipedia, and I see that what you call a bank draft is calle a bank cheque in my country. As far as I know, a bank cheque is a cheque, in other words, piece of paper that has to be cashed somewhere. Does the same apply for bank drafts? How would you receive a bank draft if someone was to send you a bank draft?

And yes, there is the belief that a bank cheque can't be forged, since in order to get a bank cheque in the first place you have to pay money to the bank (or have them withdraw it from your account).


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Traductionsdym  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:55
English to French
+ ...
Thank you for letting us know Nov 13, 2009

I do appreciate the fact that you are warning us about what we are supposed to do. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience.

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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:55
Member (2008)
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Bank draft vs. bank transfer Nov 13, 2009

Bank cheque, bank draft, cashier's cheque, money order - they are all more or less the same thing. Your bank issues a paper document like a cheque but made out in their name instead of your name. Most banks will honour them at face value, since they will never bounce due to insufficient funds, but they could be forged. Forgery being a much more serious crime than bouncing a cheque, it's considered less likely.

But they're still a paper document which has to be confirmed by the issuing bank.

A bank transfer is done electronically - using IBAN or SWIFT codes - and entirely between banks, so the banks are much more aware of the sender of the funds. While fraud is not entirely unheard of, its very rare, and the bank takes full responsibility.

And from the context of the emails, these people knew exactly what a bank draft is, and were quite happy with sending that, but not a bank transfer. If you're going to the bank to get a bank draft, you could just as well get a bank transfer. Unless, of course, you're not going to the bank to get your bank draft....


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 01:55
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Scam or not scam Nov 13, 2009

John Fossey wrote:
Generic email address + Togo + no record anywhere + unwilling to pay by bank transfer = no deal, as far as I'm concerned.


It may be no deal, but it aint necessarily a scam (although for large amounts, due care should still be taken, and jobs should be turned down if the risk is too big).

As you know, cheques are still used in the United States (rarely elsewhere) and I've had trusted US clients who insisted on paying by cheque. There seems to be resistance among some US clients against using wire transfers, even if I offer to pay for the wire charge myself. Maybe it is because you have to visit the bank to do a wire transfer...?

A personal or company cheque carries the same risks as a bank cheque, doesn't it?

My bank will sometimes pay out the check immediately even though they haven't checked the cheque yet (and if it is dishonoured, the bank just takes back the money from me), but sometimes they wait several weeks before paying the cheque.

I searched my e-mail but I could not find any such job, but I'm certain that I was also contacted by them. But they wanted some language that I don't speak.


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:55
Member (2008)
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
No deal, for sure Nov 13, 2009

It all depends where the payment is coming from. I have never had any problem with company cheques from the US or Europe, nor South Africa. My bank doesn't even hold the funds until it clears. A bank cheque carries less risk than a company or personal cheque because the bank is behind the funds, not your own funds.

In the US there's resistance to sending bank transfers simply because of the inconvenience and because the system is generally trustworthy - cheques rarely bounce.

But in countries with a considerable amount of corruption, and also those with iffy legal systems where enforcement is unlikely, bank transfer is generally known as the only safe way to go.

In this case, certainly there was going to be no deal, and while I don't have positive proof that it was a scam, I've been burned before by people who become invisible when it comes time to follow-up a bounced payment, and I'm not convinced they would find it any more difficult to make a bank transfer if they were already going to get a (genuine) bank draft.


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Patricia Novelo  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 18:55
English to Spanish
+ ...
More scams Nov 19, 2009

I was approached by an individual named David Ewell, he asked for an urgent translation which would be paid two hours after the translation was delivered or 24 hours latter, the thing is that he disappeared, vanished his phone number is disconnected the address he gave is a retail store and no answer at all and of course, no answer at all to my e-mails.
I don't know what else to do. Any suggestions?


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:55
Member (2008)
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Positive identification needed Nov 19, 2009

Well, I hate to be negative, but if you don't have positive identification, there might not be much you can do. Really, the first thing to be sure of is the identification of who you're dealing with. For companies, especially agencies, legitmate firms tend to leave a trail all over the internet, making it relatively easy to check their bonafides. If it is a private individual you would generally be wise to ask for payment in advance. After the fact, an individual who intentionally disappears is pretty hard to recover from, if not impossible.

In the case that this thread started about, one of the first warning signs was the inability to corroborate their identification with reliable sources.


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Sara Mullin  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:55
Member (2007)
English to French
+ ...
Update Nov 19, 2009

Hello again,

I received an official email this morning from the site through which I was also contacted by these people in Togo (it was not through the ProZ website).

It was a warning saying that several other people had also been contacted for this job and the email provided the aliases used (both the client names and their company) as well as the addresses and telephone numbers (all in Togo) that they've been using.

This email went on to say that this is definitely a scam. These people apparently issue fradulent cheques for an amount greater than what you've agreed upon and then they ask you to return the "difference".

Constant vigilance!

Sara


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gad
United States
Local time: 19:55
Member
French to English
Thanks for posting this Nov 19, 2009

John Fossey wrote:

Generic email address + Togo + no record anywhere + unwilling to pay by bank transfer = no deal, as far as I'm concerned.

[Edited at 2009-11-13 17:57 GMT]


You are wise to come to this conclusion. And posting this also helps others to make sure they take the same approach.


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