Possible scam, what should I do?
Thread poster: Regina Freitag

Regina Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:57
Member (2007)
English to German
+ ...
Jun 4, 2013

Dear colleagues,

I believe I was scammed and I wondered if some of you made similar experiences.

On April 26, I answered to a translation job offer by someone called Eric, regarding a "supply and demand project". After I translated the text, which was about agriculture in the end, I mailed Eric an invoice of about 450 Euro. Even during the translation, he told me that he was at hospital with cancer and urgently waiting for a surgery. As I supposed he was leading a translation agency, it didn't come to my mind at all it could be a scam. Very shortly after my invoice, Eric told me that his client owed him money, which he had by mistake added to my cheque. So I received traveller cheques of the value of 3000 Euro and Eric asked me to send the overpaid money back via Western Union money order. By then, we had been writing emails, where he told me he's really scared for his life now and I tried to support and comfort him. So for me it was quite real. I even only deducted 400 Euro for myself and paid the 5% Western Union fee, because I thought he needed the money for his surgery. After that money was received, he told me he needed two more surgeries and that he had contacted his client for old debts, and again, his client "by mistake" addressed the cheques to me, in this case 6000 Euros. I spoke with my bank and they said it might be the truth and the cheques weren't fake. But I'm getting really scared now. I can't find him on proz.com anymore, neither the job I posted to. It's also weird that he claims he's from France, but at the moment at a hospital in South Africa for surgery. But the letters I received were also from South Africa, even in Cape Town, the very same town Eric is supposed to be in hospital. He claims his client had sent them to my name in South Africa and they had resent them to me, but it just makes no sense.
Has anyone of you made a similar experience and could you give me some advice?
Because I'm really worried that the cheques worth 3000 Euro I paid in my bank account (on May 24) will bounce. As I only kept 400 Euro for myself and withdraw the rest (plus fee) to send it to Eric, it would be impossible at the moment for me to pay that money back. I can't believe I've been so naive, but I felt so much pity when he spoke of his disease and worries that I was just trying to make him feel more positive, and didn't think of a scam.

Kind regards,
Regina


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Ashish (HIN,ENG) Nadia (ITA)
Local time: 12:57
Italian to Hindi
+ ...
seek info from Western Union Jun 4, 2013

see if they will tell you where did the money end up
did you atleast make a copy of the travellers cheque?

it sounds a scam alright
contact the police
sorry you fell for it

[Edited at 2013-06-04 01:09 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Sarai Pahla (MD) MBChB
Germany
Local time: 12:57
Member (2012)
Japanese to English
+ ...
Sorry but... Jun 4, 2013

It does sound like a classic overpayment scam. See the scam alert centre for more details.

More importantly - this is a translation client, and you're not a charity organisation. Any further interactions are not part of your mandate.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Kai Döring  Identity Verified
Philippines
Local time: 18:57
Member (2007)
English to German
+ ...
Typical Scam Jun 4, 2013

Just sad it also reached the translation business now.

I suggest you also contact your bank about this to prevent any trouble from their side. They are also partly responsible for this because they should be able to verify the cheques.

For sure inform Western Union, not sure if they care much.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:57
German to English
+ ...
I'm afraid it sounds definitely like a scam Jun 4, 2013

Inform ProZ by opening a support ticket and report it to your local police and your bank. It is a crime, after all. Also write to the provider of the e-mail service he used, like hotmail. All of these entities are going to want copies of the emails with their full headers. Not sure if they can do anything, but it might be worth a try. The link below has addresses to report spam, but fraud, too. I reported a fraud attempt to hotmail a few weeks ago. These companies are big and don't want to risk their reputations.

http://www.spamlinks.net/track-report-addresses.htm#isp

I'm very sorry you were cheated out of your hard-earned money. As Sarai says, it's very important to separate business from anything personal. We translators often tend to lead somewhat isolated lives and forget that there are some very bad apples out there.

Best of luck to you.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Giuseppina Gatta, MA (Hons)
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
Clearly a scam Jun 4, 2013

Sorry you fell for it... this kind of scam has been going on for a while and unfortunately there is not much you can do. WU won't care either, I am pretty sure about that, since it is a favorite scammer means. As a matter of fact, it is the first sign something is wrong, as soon as someone mentions WU you should run like hell!

I would in any case inform anybody I can, bank, police (or if you have something that in Italy we call "postal police" for crimes committed through the Internet), but would not hope on getting my money back...

Good luck to you anyway!
Giusi

[Modificato alle 2013-06-04 06:14 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:57
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
You bank said what?? Jun 4, 2013

Regina Freitag wrote:
Even during the translation, he told me that he was at hospital with cancer and urgently waiting for a surgery. As I supposed he was leading a translation agency, it didn't come to my mind at all it could be a scam.

This is the first big red flag. Every scammer always says something that's really astonishing and calls for your sympathy and good nature.

Regina Freitag wrote:
Very shortly after my invoice, Eric told me that his client owed him money, which he had by mistake added to my cheque. So I received traveller cheques of the value of 3000 Euro and Eric asked me to send the overpaid money back via Western Union money order.

Well, there you have it. It amazes me that you did now know about this very frequent scam!!

Regina Freitag wrote:
...his client "by mistake" addressed the cheques to me, in this case 6000 Euros.

Oh my God! You are the perfect customer for every scammer. The next would have been 12000 if you fell again.

Regina Freitag wrote:
I spoke with my bank and they said it might be the truth and the cheques weren't fake.

WHAT? You must change banks immediately. I mean it!! They are clearly misleading you. You can be sure that in a month from now, the checks will prove to be false and that you will have lost your money.

Regina Freitag wrote:
I can't believe I've been so naive, but I felt so much pity when he spoke of his disease and worries that I was just trying to make him feel more positive, and didn't think of a scam.

See? You have been his perfect customer! 2600 euros in his pocket... 2600 euros less in your account, with very little you can do now unfortunately, other than printing everything out (including the email headers) and taking the whole matter to the police in case it can help catch this person in the long run. The chances of recovering your money or actually catching the scammer are one in a million.

Well, you have lost 2600 euros already. Don't lose 6000 more!!!!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Damian Harrison
Germany
Local time: 12:57
German to English
Damage control Jun 4, 2013

Contact the police, your bank and ProZ in that order. ProZ may have retained data no longer available to you that could be useful.
Note the name of the bank clerk who advised that you that the cheques were fine.


Some background information here: http://www.polizei.bayern.de/kriminalitaet/internet/betrug/index.html/56975


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Giuseppina Gatta, MA (Hons)
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
Traveler cheques Jun 4, 2013

The cheques might have been authentic and just stolen. Never worked in a bank so not sure if they have a way to verify that they got stolen or stuff. Thing is, no regular clients, in 19 years of experience, has ever paid me by traveler cheques, and this is another pretty obvious indicator of a scam.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Usch Pilz
Local time: 12:57
English to German
+ ...
Overpayment Scam or else: Money Laundering Jun 4, 2013

Hey,
somebody tried this on me in 2011 during my FIRST week as a proz.com member.
Luckily I did not fall for it. As soon as the "client" told me he would sent travellers' cheques, I let him know they would go straight to the police.
Never heard from him again.

Yes - the contributers are right. This sounds like the very typical overpayment scam.

And if by any small chance the cheques don't bounce and are for real, you have probably been part of a money laundering scheme.

Money from illegal sources is sometimes shifted around in this way. It may seem costly for the culprits, but in the end it works for them.

All the best, and please take the damage-control-advice given by the contributors above.

[Edited at 2013-06-04 09:42 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:57
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
When in doubt Jun 4, 2013

In case of any overpayment, hold to the money for a month before releasing any money. Inform the customer that you have to be sure that the payment document (check, traveller's checks) is legitimate, and only then you can return the money. If they get nasty, ask them to sue you for the money. Any court will rule in your favour as this is just a precaution.

Direct link Reply with quote
 
CMGT
France
Local time: 12:57
English to French
+ ...
Typical scam indeed... Jun 4, 2013

Hi, I am sorry to tell you that but your chances of getting your money back are almost nonexistent. It happened to my mum while renting out a flat of hers via Internet. The cheques finally proved to be genuine but stolen. In our case I was mad at her because I'm a lawyer and she did not even talk to me about it before cashing the cheques and sending over a payment.

First step: go to the police and lodge a complaint with as many details as you can. I agree like anyone here that WU will not care at all. However, you might have an insurance that could work for that, check all you insurance policies and contact the companies to see what you can do.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:57
Member
French to English
+ ...
How to spot scams Jun 4, 2013

Sorry to hear this happened to you. You have received a lot of good advice above.

I have written a Knowledgebase article about how to spot scams based on five "red flags" (warning signs). If you observe two or more, you're most likely dealing with a scammer. In your case, at least two of them appear to be present (numbers 1 and 2 on my list, possibly 4 as well?) Using this list may help you to avoid being scammed again in future.

http://www.proz.com/translation-articles/articles/3616/


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Regina Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:57
Member (2007)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you everyone! Jun 4, 2013

Thank you everyone for your kind and helpful advice!! I went to my bank, but they are even more naive than me and still said "Well, it might still be he's telling the truth, the cheques seemed really fine." The lady at the bank did her best, but she is very young though and unexperienced, so I should talk about this with other staff.
The police is definitely a good idea.

I hope soon most translators will know about this crazy scam and don't fall for it anymore.

Kind regards,

Regina


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:57
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Leave it all well documented Jun 4, 2013

Regina Freitag wrote:
The lady at the bank did her best, but she is very young though and unexperienced, so I should talk about this with other staff.

Certainly. I would let her know what you know now, and would also try to talk to the branch manager so that they are aware of the situation. You should perhaps write the whole situation in detail in a letter to the branch manager, along with a copy of your report at the police, so that the situation is black on white on paper and to prove that you were not trying to scam the bank or anyone. If the police report takes some time, you might want to write the letter already. For your own protection and to prove that you always acted in good faith in this situation, it is best that you have everything well documented and printed out.

(I am no lawyer. You might want to ask some lawyer friend you trust, for advice on this matter.)


Direct link Reply with quote
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

Moderator(s) of this forum
Alejandro Cavalitto[Call to this topic]

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Possible scam, what should I do?

Advanced search







Anycount & Translation Office 3000
Translation Office 3000

Translation Office 3000 is an advanced accounting tool for freelance translators and small agencies. TO3000 easily and seamlessly integrates with the business life of professional freelance translators.

More info »
PerfectIt consistency checker
Faster Checking, Greater Accuracy

PerfectIt helps deliver error-free documents. It improves consistency, ensures quality and helps to enforce style guides. It’s a powerful tool for pro users, and comes with the assurance of a 30-day money back guarantee.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search