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Scam?
Thread poster: Robert Forstag

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:25
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Aug 16, 2012

Below is a message I received from an individual with an empty company profile on this site, followed by my reply and the individual's second message. Individual claims to represent Israeli branch of a multinational agency.

To me, it sounds scammy. Yet I am curious as to why the individual who contacted me offered to pay me in advance via Western Union, which would seem to be a secure payment method. Would the end game in such a case be the claim that, "I've spent the whole morning trying to send you the money via Western Union but there seems to be some problem. Go ahead and do the work and send it to me, and I promise to pay you later"??

Or is it even possible that this offer is legit.

I'm interested in learning from this experience so any comments are welcome.

*****
Hi Robert, Are you available to translate a job from Spanish
to English - or part of it - by this Monday? If so please let me know immediately and I
will email you the text of the number of pages you can commit to doing (out of 531!) to
get your price quotation. Thank you, XYZ

************

Hello,
Given that I've never worked for you before, you live in another country, and your company has no Blue Board record, the only way I would entertain doing any work for you would be if I were paid via some secure method in advance. If you are willing to do this, let me know and we can continue our discussion.
Robert A. Forstag, MA
ATA-Certified, Spanish-to-English
*********
OK - I could either make you a regular bank transfer if you let me have your bank details and email you the bank confirmation slip, or I could do a transfer through Western Union, or perhaps by Paypal. This could be done tomorrow morning (our time).
But for me to pay you in advance I would need to know your charge per source word and how many source words you could commit to translating to reach me by 18:00 GMT on Monday.
I look forward to hearing from you
Best wishes,
XYZ


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Rolf Kern  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 00:25
English to German
+ ...
Scam? Aug 16, 2012

We do not know at this stage, go on and be careful.

Rolf

[Bearbeitet am 2012-08-16 20:48 GMT]


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:25
Hebrew to English
Smells fishy to me too Aug 16, 2012

I'd be suspicious of anyone who so readily agreed to pre-payment. Usually you have to fight tooth and nail for it. Of course, they could just be in dire straits (if they really do have a 531 page document with a deadline of a few days then this is plausible) but.....

They seem quite keen for you to commit to something...I'd also be concerned that your prediction about "delayed payment" might come to pass, and then when there's a hitch (a non-existent one) they use the fact you committed to something to hoodwink you into going along with the translation with the vague promise of imminent payment or post-payment (which probably won't arrive).

It could be legit, or it could be a scam.

You could give them the benefit of the doubt, see if they honour pre-payment by tomorrow morning - not with some email of a bank confirmation slip but by seeing the $$$ in your bank account and with the proviso that lack of pre-payment by the agreed time nullifies any commitment on your part, at the first sign of duplicity - end the endeavour and send 'em packing.


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:25
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Follow-Up Aug 16, 2012

Thanks for your feedback, Rolf and Ty.

Given that I'm coming off a busy week and have some work already scheduled for this weekend (and a need for a bit of a break as well), I'm not inclined to pursue this dubious opportunity.

@Ty:
Like you, I was most struck by the willingness to pay a large sum of money to me before I had translated a single word (and on the part of an agency I've never worked for). I truly would be surprised if this were not a scam and, at this point, I'm more interested in being enlightened as to how the end game would work here (i.e., without putting myself in a position to discover this directly through exposing myself to being victimized--or having any involvement with such a suspicious person).

I've never been offered payment in advance for any job in nearly 10 years as a freelancer, even from agencies in dire straits!



[Edited at 2012-08-17 01:06 GMT]


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Kuochoe Nikoi  Identity Verified
Ghana
Local time: 23:25
Japanese to English
Fishier than a ten-day old tuna Aug 16, 2012

It does sound rather suspicious. It would be nice if someone could find out what their game is so future translators will be warned, but I quite understand Robert's reluctance to be the patsy here.

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Natalie  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 00:25
Member (2002)
English to Russian
+ ...

MODERATOR
Hi Robert Aug 16, 2012

Robert Forstag wrote:
Below is a message I received from an individual with an empty company profile on this site


Just check if the email address he uses is the "corporate" one or gmail/hotmail/yahoo etc (I can bet it is a gmail address). In the latter case there is nothing to discuss.

Natalia
P.S. You could also check with the company head office if they really have such branch and such manager.



[Edited at 2012-08-16 22:49 GMT]


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:25
English to German
+ ...
too little information - one should definitely stay away IMHO Aug 17, 2012

Empty profile page, no address, no phone number; possibly no existing (or empty) blueboard page. Small company?
They are possibly hiding some other identity because of prior negative blueboard record under a different name.
That's probably the reason why they are contacting translators directly and don't post jobs.

It's possibly a real job but getting paid for it might prove very difficult or impossible.
I can't imagine how they would have funds available for advance payments. So I'm fairly certain that part is insincere and they would never go through with it but instead back out by saying they found someone else (who doesn't ask for advance payments ->> not that they would tell you that). That way it will look as if they would have actually paid in advance.

The person who actually accepts the job will most likely get paid very little very late or nothing at all.

HTH

B

[Edited at 2012-08-17 21:37 GMT]


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NataliaAnne  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 21:25
Portuguese to English
It seems scammers now (pretend to) offer upfront payment? Aug 17, 2012

I had a similar experience recently where I was contacted directly to work on a translation that I was sure was a scam. I also asked for upfront payment and they readily agreed to it, putting me in the same position of wondering what they intended to do from that point on. Wish I could tell you, but I was too busy to waste any more time with them, so I can only imagine that they would send some woe story about not being able to pay after all and try to guilt trip you into doing the translation anyway.

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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:25
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Update Aug 17, 2012

Just about half an hour ago (after plans for this weekend fell through) I contacted the individual in question and told him I would be available to commit to 5000 words this weekend. He e-mailed me back right away that the entire project (over 500 pages) had already been assigned.

I share Natalia Anne's suspicion that, had I agreed to do this project when it was still (supposedly) available, the individual would have agreed to make upfront payment, but then have had some story about why this wasn't possible. It is even feasible that he decided not to deal with me because he became aware of this thread.

If Natalia Anne's and my suspicions are correct, then the scam here consists of gaining the translator's confidence by an apparent willingness to offer upfront payment and then, having secured their commitment to do a certain amount of work, "close the deal" with some plausible story about why payment can't be made (and perhaps even offer more money later for the "inconvenience").

This kind of operation would indeed make sense.

Thank you all for your comments.

[Edited at 2012-08-18 01:32 GMT]


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XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:25
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Pre-empting scams Aug 17, 2012

I have a golden rule, which I've never broken, of never accepting more than 2,500 words (i.e. one day's work for me) from any new client. I've never (frantically touch wood) had a problem. Any job larger than that must be pre-paid. I don't start until the funds are in my account (usually takes a couple of days) so this doesn't work for urgent jobs. I've never had a problem with this system and we're also talking about agencies that aren't on the BB. I'd like to know what I'm missing. Could I ever fall victim to a scam using this method? Could they do something dodgy once they have my bank details?

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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:25
Hebrew to English
Don't think so Aug 17, 2012

Lisa Simpson, MCIL wrote:

I have a golden rule, which I've never broken, of never accepting more than 2,500 words (i.e. one day's work for me) from any new client. I've never (frantically touch wood) had a problem. Any job larger than that must be pre-paid. I don't start until the funds are in my account (usually takes a couple of days) so this doesn't work for urgent jobs. I've never had a problem with this system and we're also talking about agencies that aren't on the BB. I'd like to know what I'm missing. Could I ever fall victim to a scam using this method? Could they do something dodgy once they have my bank details?


As long as they only have your IBAN and BIC, I don't see what damage can be done. If I'm wrong on that then if anyone knows otherwise please correct my misconception.....

I also am really wary of unknowns approaching me for work. I had a strange one today, went something like this:

1st email:
Hi, I would like to translate some documents from Hebrew to
English.

My response: Okay, send me more details and we'll talk.

2nd email:
How much are you taking for translation?

My response: Gave him my minimum rate, which is a multiple of the insult listed below.

3rd email:
Hi,
I can offer 0,03 per source word.

My response: Aha, oooookay, I can't agree to that but just out of curiosity, what is the subject area/genre/document type/format?

4th email:
Hi,
This is two pages of document.

I didn't bother responding after that.

*By the way, I haven't omitted anything from the above emails, they really were that short.

Sent by someone using a ymail.com address with no online trail or record whatsoever.
Needless to say, I didn't pursue it, I only kept it going as long as it did out of sheer curiosity.


[Edited at 2012-08-17 15:16 GMT]


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XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:25
Portuguese to English
+ ...
They have more than that Aug 17, 2012

Ty Kendall wrote:

Lisa Simpson, MCIL wrote:

I have a golden rule, which I've never broken, of never accepting more than 2,500 words (i.e. one day's work for me) from any new client. I've never (frantically touch wood) had a problem. Any job larger than that must be pre-paid. I don't start until the funds are in my account (usually takes a couple of days) so this doesn't work for urgent jobs. I've never had a problem with this system and we're also talking about agencies that aren't on the BB. I'd like to know what I'm missing. Could I ever fall victim to a scam using this method? Could they do something dodgy once they have my bank details?


As long as they only have your IBAN and BIC, I don't see what damage can be done.


My invoices contain my full bank details (bank name, address, account number, IBAN and BIC) - any risk there?


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:25
Hebrew to English
I wouldn't have thought so..... Aug 17, 2012

These details:
bank name, address, account number, IBAN and BIC

...can usually only be used to put money in, not take money out (you usually need more, confidential details to do that).

From some cursory research, as long as such details such as passwords, security questions/answers/numbers, mother's maiden name, long card number, 3-digit code on the back of your card aren't included then you should be okay.

It's apparently fine to include the details you list for a bank transfer.

I read somewhere:
"a general rule is anything found on a cheque is safe....but most things on a debit card are not"....

...which seems quite logical to me.


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XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:25
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Phew! Aug 17, 2012

Ty Kendall wrote:

I read somewhere:
"a general rule is anything found on a cheque is safe....but most things on a debit card are not"....

...which seems quite logical to me.


Thanks Ty - handy tip Not, I might add, that any client of mine has any of my debit card info. It just suddenly occurred to me that scammers might find a way of fleecing you via a pre-payment to your bank a/c (rather than the usual Paypal schemes).

[Edited at 2012-08-17 16:38 GMT]


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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:25
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I take certain risks Aug 17, 2012

Lisa Simpson, MCIL wrote:

I have a golden rule, which I've never broken, of never accepting more than 2,500 words (i.e. one day's work for me) from any new client. I've never (frantically touch wood) had a problem. Any job larger than that must be pre-paid. I don't start until the funds are in my account (usually takes a couple of days) so this doesn't work for urgent jobs. I've never had a problem with this system and we're also talking about agencies that aren't on the BB. I'd like to know what I'm missing. Could I ever fall victim to a scam using this method? Could they do something dodgy once they have my bank details?


While I'm wary of taking on large projects from new clients, I simply don't have the luxury of turning down such work when offered. After all, and at least in my world, the possibility of earning (for example) $3000 for 6-8 days of work doesn't come along that often.

Of course, I only accept such jobs under standard 30-day payment terms if the Blue Board record is rock solid. If I have any cause for concern, I ask for payment within 5 or 10 days of delivery.

And, of course, if certain minimum criteria are not met, I don't accept the work.

I am happy to say that the worst problem I've encountered in such circumstances is late payment. I've never actually been stiffed.

So my own view is that it doesn't pay to be too conservative about taking large jobs from new clients. But, of course, one needs to be careful.

[Edited at 2012-08-18 03:05 GMT]


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