Attention fraud directed at translators/translation companies!
Thread poster: jmleger

jmleger  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:02
English to French
+ ...
Jun 4, 2010

A client offered us job for which we charged $2,000. He sent us a cashier's check for $3,900). He told us that his associate had gotten confused and sent us a check which included services he need to pay to another supplier (an interpreter) in Bulgaria. He said we should deposit the cashier's check in our account and then send the difference to the other provider ($1,900). Seems rather innocuous, right?

Since you a dealing with a cashier's check and it looks legitimate, you may be inclined to do just that, especially as your bank will accept the check without any problem. The problems start when the cashier's check get to the Federal Reserve. There, it is recognized as bogus and sent back to your bank, which very quickly deducts it from your account. If in the intervening time you have sent the $1,900 difference to their Bulgarian accomplice, you are out of luck.

I am posting this because I can't imagine we were the only ones targeted by this scheme.

We were tipped off by the unusual demeanor of the client. His supposed name was English sounding, but strange (instead of being Steven, the first name was Stevens--not the real fake-name used). He did not question the amount we charged. When we declined to start the job until we saw some money, it took a long time to get the bogus check. Many small details, which catch the attention of someone who has been in this racket for over 30 years, but which might escape a younger translator. contributed to our ability to pick up on the scheme.

My considered advice is to stay away from any transaction out of the ordinary. Be a Fantastic Mr. Fox!

When in doubt, always consult with your elders, mentors, friends, colleagues. People pray on the fact that translators are for the most part isolated.

[Edited at 2010-06-04 13:47 GMT]


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Brian Young  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:02
Danish to English
common trick Jun 4, 2010

This same trick has been played on many people, in all kinds of different circumstances. Translators are just a new target.

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jmleger  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:02
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Old trick, undoubtedly Jun 4, 2010

The new twist, I would say is that sites such as Proz.com put a huge reserve of potential targets at the disposal of crooks. IMHO, there should be an education effort made to help the proz users community spot scams. A cashier's check is as impressive and "official" a financial instrument as you can come across. Unless they have been around for some time, very few people would think of questioning the validity of the transaction. Let's not forget that variants of the Nigerian letter, a particularly obvious ploy, still manage to catch thousands of people unawares in this country.

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Germaine  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 05:02
Member (2005)
English to French
+ ...
Another scam... Jun 4, 2010

I received the following email:

You have been sent a message via ProZ.com.
Author: * [NOTE: The author is not a registered ProZ.com user or was not logged in when sending this message.]
Author's IP address: * (transmitted to Proz Support)
Message type: Request for quote
-----------

Greetings!

My name is * from Toronto,Canada but presently on an official assignment in Bucarest,Romania.I will need your service to translate a write-up for me. I actually need to make a presentation to some group of french speaking people in Quebec and I will be provided with an interpreter there in Quebec,so i will need you to help me translate the papers to canadian French,so each of my
audience can have a copy in French language and they can follow through.I will also need that the work be delivered by August 1st.Please,let me know your rate for a total of about 15 pages presentation(see attachments) and your methods of payment.
Thank you.
*
(phone number)
______________

I replied, asking for the missing attachments and specifying my rates. I received a second email:

Thanks for the quick response.See attachment to view the text.I will need the work to be delivered by Aug 1st.Please,let me know the exact quote and also let me know if a local bank draft/check or Money Order is fine with you for payment.Have a wonderful evening.

Regards,
* .
______________

First, there is the absence of any address or firm name. Second, the two documents to translate (which represent 3636 words) are very different (one even looks like a student work). Therefore, I decided to check "*" on the net using the phone number and ended up on a site posting the very same email, but from "*" (another name), who uses the same phone number and is - what a coincidence! - presently in Bucarest...

See for yourself (it begins with the art scam but goes on with the translation scam):
http://www.artnewsblog.com/2006/04/art-scams.htm

[Edited at 2010-06-04 15:07 GMT]

[Edited at 2010-06-04 15:16 GMT]


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:02
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Checks Jun 4, 2010

What is astonishing to me is that in 2010, banks still cannot instantly check the validity of a check and the availability of funds while you are standing right there at the bank. What happens if you cash the check rather than deposit it?

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jmleger  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:02
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
What happens?.. Jun 4, 2010

The bank holds you responsible for the full amount, Jeff. and you are lucky if they don't suspect of fraud yourself. I am not sure they would cash a sizeable cashier's check anyway. I deposited a large check from a local bank to another local bank, and although it was a cashier's check, and they could have just picked up a phone, they only made the money available the next day. Oh well...

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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 11:02
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
NEVER accept a check on those terms. Jun 7, 2010

Return the check and ask for a new check for the correct amount.

You probably will not get one, but then you are entitled to start collection procedures, because you have acted correctly.

Any serious client would cancel the check and let you know that a new one was on the way.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 08:02
English to Portuguese
+ ...
They can... but within their own organization in one same country Jun 7, 2010

Jeff Whittaker wrote:
What is astonishing to me is that in 2010, banks still cannot instantly check the validity of a check and the availability of funds while you are standing right there at the bank. What happens if you cash the check rather than deposit it?


Due to past 3-digit inflation (long ago), Brazil developed the fastest banking system in the world. Any teller at any bank branch here has real time access to any domestic account in that same bank; they may check balance, if a check is legit, the account holder's signature, anything, regardless of which branch locations are involved.

Nevertheless, for security reasons, one bank has very limited and indirect access to other banks' data. If one bank had access to another's network/system, what would prevent a hacker from doing the same?

All banks in Brazil have had two integrating systems for many years already. One, older, performs inter-banks money transfers overnight (i.e. on the next consecutive banking day). Later - but long ago - this type of transaction was limited to BRL 5,000. For larger amounts it can be done only during banking hours, but takes only 20 minutes for complete processing.

All this can be done (within certain account-specific security limits, of course) at ATMs or via Internet as well. However it only works within Brazil. International operations will always be messy, as each country tends to protect itself against tax evasion and money laundering. Furthermore, for security reasons multinational banks tend to isolate the operations in each country from the others.


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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:02
English to Hungarian
+ ...
I can tell you... Jun 8, 2010

Jeff Whittaker wrote:
What is astonishing to me is that in 2010, banks still cannot instantly check the validity of a check and the availability of funds while you are standing right there at the bank. What happens if you cash the check rather than deposit it?


The worst thing you can do is to try to cash that cheque in. If you actually have a bank account, it would look particularly bad that you tried to cash in the dud cheque instead of depositing it!

You would be taken to the nearest police station and they would question you. If they think that you are utterly and totally gormless, they may incline to form the opinion that you are indeed the victim of a scam, otherwise they may not, but in either case, you may be released on bail pending further investigation....

I had an interpreting case like this not very long ago. The hapless chap was lucky, because the scammer was just as stupid as he, and it was clear to all of us - with the exception of the victim - that he was duped.


[Edited at 2010-06-08 23:14 GMT]


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Enrique Cavalitto
Local time: 07:02
SITE STAFF
Wiki page started on this subject Jun 14, 2010

A ProZ.com Wiki articles was started on the issue of Detecting and reacting to false job offers and other scams.

You are welcome and encouraged to add to this article to create a resource that will help translators in this subject area.

Kind regards,
Enrique


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