When your client and your translator are both scammers
Thread poster: Enrique Cavalitto

Enrique Cavalitto  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 01:27
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
Jun 29, 2015

Impersonation scams are described in a dedicated ProZ.com article. A rather complex scam was reported recently by the owner of a small but very professional translation company where both the client and the translator were scammers.

The agency had exchanged several emails with a potential client, who finally wrote to request a next-day-delivery translation offering a good rate. The job was moderately sized but it was not in the pairs usually worked by the agency.

Given the short deadline, and with a (misguided) confidence based on the several emails already exchanged, the agency failed to do a proper risk evaluation. Besides, the "client" had a very generic name including the word “languages” and another very common term. This kind of ordinary name makes it harder to Google them properly.

Since the job was outside the pair usually managed by the agency, they posted a job and selected a translators who declared extensive credentials and was available for the very short delivery. The translators claimed that, since this was the first contact, he wanted to receive 50% immediate advance payment.

In the normal course of this scam, this is the point where the agency sends this advance payment, only to discover that both the "client" and the "translator" vanished from the face of Earth (and probably were the same person or organization).

In this particular case the story had a different end: the agency refused the advance payment and offered to pay upon delivery. The fake translator accepted the conditions and then vanished. When the translator did not reply, the honest agency managed to get a second (this time real) translator to get the job done, and had to pay this real translation while getting nothing from the now disappeared client.

Again, a few rules to protect you from most scammers when you receive a commercial offer from a new entity:
  • Quickly evaluate if it makes sense and is interesting. If not, delete and forget.

  • If interesting and reasonable, ask for verifiable contact data AND VERIFY IT

  • Once you are sure that the other part is who they claim to be, check for their credit status, for instance using the Blue Board

  • Scammers will claim urgency to induce you to skip security controls. If there is no time for performing the security checks, you should decline the job.



Regards,
Enrique Cavalitto


 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:27
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Thank you Enrique! Jun 30, 2015

Wow, these scammers become more and more imprudent.icon_frown.gif I feel for the agency, having fallen for scammers "at both ends".

Thank you for your great reminders regarding risk management. I agree that when a new client appears with an urgent request, the LSP (translator and agency) should still take the time to research the prospective client - or translator.

Hopefully your warning/reminder will save our colleagues and clients alike from falling for scammers.

Stay safe!


 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Protection Jun 30, 2015

PayPal has one simple way to protect buyers from possible scams. Say you sold something, received the payment and claim you’ve send it. The buyer paid you the money, but PayPal blocks it until the buyer actually receives the goods. If the buyer does not receive the goods, money is returned to the buyer. PayPal does it for first transactions, to make sure the seller is trustworthy. Once the seller “behaves” properly, this “limitation” is lifted.

We need a similar system, obviously adapted to our industry’s needs.


 

Kuochoe Nikoi  Identity Verified
Ghana
Local time: 04:27
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Ah, I see Jun 30, 2015

Enrique Cavalitto wrote:

In the normal course of this scam, this is the point where the agency sends this advance payment, only to discover that both the "client" and the "translator" vanished from the face of Earth (and probably were the same person or organization).

Interesting, but is that really how the scam works? Unless the language pair the 'client' is asking for is really rare, what are the chances that the 'translator' the unsuspecting agency offers the job to will be the client's alter-ego? In this case I think the agency just got unlucky at both ends. I can only hope they didn't lose too much money.

[Edited at 2015-06-30 07:58 GMT]


 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:27
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Collaboration Jun 30, 2015

TransAfrique wrote:

Enrique Cavalitto wrote:

In the normal course of this scam, this is the point where the agency sends this advance payment, only to discover that both the "client" and the "translator" vanished from the face of Earth (and probably were the same person or organization).

Interesting, but is that really how the scam works? Unless the language pair the 'client' is asking for is really rare, what are the chances that the 'translator' the unsuspecting agency offers the job to will be the client's alter-ego? In this case I think the agency just got unlucky at both ends. I can only hope they didn't lose too much money.

[Edited at 2015-06-30 07:58 GMT]


Well, if this scam was planned a forehand, then the "client" and the "translator" might be accomplices. When the translator offers the service and assures the agency that it's lucky to have found him, it's the perfect set-up. All the translator had to do was wait for the job post from that agency, et voilá, the trap closes.


 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:27
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Client and translator both scammers Jun 30, 2015

If I understand correctly, the "translator" created a fake profile in a very rare language pair (say English to Bambara). The "client" contacted the agency with a fake rush job in that language pair and when the agency searched for a translator, they only found the one, whom they contacted and this translator requested an advanced payment.

Sounds like a lesson we all need to learn: a client's (especially a new client's) rush is never our rush and we should strive never to be in a position where we need to accept work quickly without doing the proper due diligence.

I have seen my share of agency contracts over the years (if you haven't ever seen an agency-customer contract, perhaps you should solicit a translation quote - you may be surprised) and most of the agencies I am familiar with would never send work to a translator until payment (or at least half of it) is received from the client and verified, thus enabling them to pay the translator half in advance with no risk of loss.

[Edited at 2015-06-30 13:18 GMT]


 

João Roque Dias
Portugal
Local time: 05:27
English to Portuguese
50% immediate advance payment Jun 30, 2015

Burned as they are now all over, scammers are now refining their tactics, and asking for a 50% down payment is becoming standard among them.

Enrique is absolutely right: companies should not let urgency impair their due diligence and risk assessment of the translators' CVs coming into their mailboxes. Remember: a Skype call on camera takes 30 seconds.

Other trends in the scammers' world:

1. CVs circulated with NO email addresses; this way, they can be sent with whatever email addresses the scammers create for the occasion. They have no time to waste, and spamming is a business of big numbers.

2. Scammers now presenting themselves as "independent project managers"; their business remains the same, i.e., getting jobs with fake CVs and, then, if a job lands on their inboxes, they'll look for the next available sucker to deliver the job. Or, they just hire Mr. Google to do it...


 

Enrique Cavalitto  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 01:27
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
TOPIC STARTER
The association is not sure, but very likely Jun 30, 2015

TransAfrique wrote:

Enrique Cavalitto wrote:

In the normal course of this scam, this is the point where the agency sends this advance payment, only to discover that both the "client" and the "translator" vanished from the face of Earth (and probably were the same person or organization).

Interesting, but is that really how the scam works? Unless the language pair the 'client' is asking for is really rare, what are the chances that the 'translator' the unsuspecting agency offers the job to will be the client's alter-ego? In this case I think the agency just got unlucky at both ends. I can only hope they didn't lose too much money.


The email from the agency could be associated to a known scamming operation based in the Palestinian Territories. The translator's profile was created just in time for the job post, send an offer and then was deleted again. The associated IP was from the Palestinian Territories.

I did not include all the details because the modus operandi of the scammer is not so relevant as the need for all freelancers and agencies to perform their risk management. If you insist on verifiable contact information, scammers will run away.

Regards,
Enrique


 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 12:27
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
Skype call on camera!? Jul 1, 2015

Remember: a Skype call on camera takes 30 seconds.

No effing way, thank you very much.


 

Susana E. Cano Méndez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 06:27
Member
French to Spanish
+ ...
Thank you, Enrique Jul 1, 2015

I'm really astonished about scammers' methods!

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:27
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
PayPal works both ways Jul 3, 2015

Merab Dekano wrote:
PayPal has one simple way to protect buyers from possible scams. Say you sold something, received the payment and claim you’ve send it. The buyer paid you the money, but PayPal blocks it until the buyer actually receives the goods. If the buyer does not receive the goods, money is returned to the buyer. PayPal does it for first transactions, to make sure the seller is trustworthy. Once the seller “behaves” properly, this “limitation” is lifted.

We need a similar system, obviously adapted to our industry’s needs.

I suppose it works fine for an agency who isn't sure the translator is legitimate. But it works the other way around for a freelance translator. If we ask for an advance payment from a first-time client (outsourcer or direct client), and we receive it via PayPal, they can go ahead and cancel their payment once they've received the translation. I guess it's possible to prove to PayPal that they received (or at least you sent) it, but I bet it would be a mega-hassle. So I've stopped accepting advance payments through PayPal. They have to go into my bank account.

I'm with Lincoln Hui on Skype camera calls: no way!


 


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