be careful of fraud on ProZ
Thread poster: Andrea Schwam

Andrea Schwam
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:14
Member (2012)
French to English
+ ...
Aug 27, 2015

I just wanted to alert the community to a scam I recently encountered in my professional life - I hope the first and last of its kind!
An "individual" posted an ad on here for the translation of a Fr-Eng University viva voce/MA thesis.
Through email communication (gmail account, untraceable) this person "chose" me, responded to questions about the work, and sent an official-looking French bank document verifying that a bank transfer had been made between our accounts (I also live in France and have the same bank!).
As bank transfers sometimes take a few days to go through, and I was working over the weekend, I stupidly sent the finished project before the money was in my account.
I then sent the completed work and never heard from the person again.
I am doing all I can to report this fraud - but note to all freelancers! If you are working with an idividual (and not an agency), demand personal details from the client, verify an internet presence, speak on the phone, meet face-to-face if you can - and above all, NEVER send finished work until the money is firmly in your pocket.
Thanks for listening - and if you have any ideas of how I can report this in France, I am welcome to your suggestions.


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 14:14
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Thanks! Aug 27, 2015

The first thing I would do is showing your bank the official-looking document. The second thing would be reporting the case to the police.

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shan6986
India
Local time: 19:44
Blogging Aug 27, 2015

Hello,

Sorry about your experience and thank you for educating the others. It would be good if you write these on your blogs if any and also on other social media websites like facebook/linkedin. I personally run a page on anti-corruption on facebook which might also help.

Hope you have a good day.


Best Wishes,
Shan


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Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
French to Danish
+ ...
SEPA bank transfers only take one day Aug 27, 2015

The time a SEPA bank transfer (in euro, in the EU/EEA) takes is one day under current EU law. So a transfer must be credited the day after the transfer order was given. No need to wait several days.

I would not begin work on the basis of some transfer advice.

Even after payment is received, one can be scammed, as EU banking law gives account holders 13 months to demand that unauthorised payments be refunded. A fraudster could have hacked a bank account and used it to pay, and when the owner discovers it, the bank must refund the money if it can't prove the owner authorised it. Such scams are probably more common on Paypal, though. A stolen credit card is enough to make a fraudulent payment, and Paypal will promptly take the money back with a fee when it is discovered. This makes it risky to deal with individual clients.


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:14
French to English
Is it your contention the document is fake? Aug 27, 2015

aschwam wrote:

... and sent an official-looking French bank document verifying that a bank transfer had been made between our accounts (I also live in France and have the same bank!).


I was, coincidentally, alerted to this story yesterday by a colleague. First name starts with B, surname sounds less-than-flattering to English ears, right?

Obviously, it could well be a fraud or person who has simply thought, I could get away with not paying this. Your advice is all very sound. However, in your shoes, I'd be looking to enquire of the Twitter and LinkedIn accounts of the person(s) with the same name, in case it's them or, indeed, someone impersonating them. Any clue from the university she studies at? Can you ask your bank to establish whether the payer account actually exists or not (and perhaps the genuineness of the document she sent)?

Under these specific circumstances (i.e. the whole thing seemed quite genuine at the time, with no rats smelt) it should also be kept in mind that she might think you are trying to scam her by claiming not to have received a payment she genuinely thinks she made. There could be a genuine balls up somewhere - Soc Gén took €8,000 from my account for no discernible reason whatsoever a couple of years ago; paid it back pronto but really no satisfactory reason e.g. very similar account no. typed in wrong, or whatever.

I suspect your recourse and likelihood of success will vary depending on whether BL is a real person who has decided not to pay or never intended to, or whether identity theft is involved. You'll need to try to establish which it is first, I think.

Update: OK, so it's not a balls-up, it's a question of using a false name that happens to match actual people and using falsified documents to pretend payment was made. Just in case anyone can help the OP with the procedure in France under such circs.

[Edited at 2015-08-27 13:51 GMT]


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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:14
French to English
SEPA bank transfers Aug 27, 2015

aschwam wrote:

I just wanted to alert the community to a scam I recently encountered in my professional life - I hope the first and last of its kind!
An "individual" posted an ad on here for the translation of a Fr-Eng University viva voce/MA thesis.
Through email communication (gmail account, untraceable) this person "chose" me, responded to questions about the work, and sent an official-looking French bank document verifying that a bank transfer had been made between our accounts (I also live in France and have the same bank!).
As bank transfers sometimes take a few days to go through, ....


For future reference, and for the benefit of others working with clients in the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), bank transfers are now meant to take just 24 hours from one SEPA country to another. In practical terms, that can often rule out Monday morning and payments made after midday on Friday. As a rule, therefore, if within 48h (2 normal business days) a transfer is said to have been made and you have not received it, then chase it up immediately. I have clients in Switzerland, Luxembourg and elsewhere who pay within 24 hours with no problem. My French clients are slower to pay and in 20 years, I have had more problems being paid on time by my French clients than any others. No excuse, except bad practices which are cast in stone here. I cherish my Swizz clients!

Note that it is possible to produce a genuine bank transfer instruction (ordre de virement) for a later date and cancel after having provided you with a copy. The document may have been genuine, but if the "ordre" was not for immediate effect (usually indicated in small print), in matter of minutes, no sooner had the document been created, the "client" simply had to cancel the "ordre".

It pays to be familiar with some of these basic rules, which came into effect in February 2014. I was sometimes scandalised by the number of days transferring funds from one side of the banking street to the other would take. Even mid-week! I suspect a large number of deals take place on Friday afternoon... wonder why? And if Monday is also a public holiday, then someone womewhere is probably laughing all the way to the bank.

http://www.europeanpaymentscouncil.eu/index.cfm/sepa-credit-transfer/what-is-a-payment-scheme/

Edit to add that I had somehow overlooked Thomas' post on the same subject.

[Edited at 2015-08-27 13:03 GMT]

EDito n°2 to point out that these same "good" clients did not complain when we started working together if I requested 30% upfront to start the job, nor do they complain now when I request an advance if there are traveling expenses or if the job exceeds the volume I have set myself for requesting an advance.

[Edited at 2015-08-27 13:12 GMT]


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Andrea Schwam
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:14
Member (2012)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
thanks for reading Aug 27, 2015

Hi everyone - thanks so much for your help!
I should have mentioned (but the story is very long at this point) that when I called the client's bank (also my bank), they said that the document had indeed been forged and that the number was a fake.
I still don't understand the whole thing, but I would like to have a better idea about the nature of the scam so that I can signal it to other freelance translators.
Any ideas why someone might do this?


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:14
French to English
Genuine need Aug 27, 2015

aschwam wrote:

Any ideas why someone might do this?


Seems possible the actual translation need is genuine enough and you are simply not being paid for it, full stop. (Unlike, say, an overpayment scam where the translation material itself is irrelevant - just gives a reason to pay you so you repay the excess.) (or unless it's someone who just gets a kick out of wasting people's time.)

In which case, is it a student who has researched how to produce falsified bank documents to look convincing, with the aim of getting a free translation that is nonetheless actually genuinely needed? Or could it be a middle-man of some kind ("I'll get your stuff translated, sling me €50, no questions asked")? Seems a lot of effort for a one-off, doesn't it?


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Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:14
German to English
+ ...
Scamming translators has become big business in the last few years Aug 27, 2015

aschwam wrote:

Hi everyone - thanks so much for your help!
I should have mentioned (but the story is very long at this point) that when I called the client's bank (also my bank), they said that the document had indeed been forged and that the number was a fake.
I still don't understand the whole thing, but I would like to have a better idea about the nature of the scam so that I can signal it to other freelance translators.
Any ideas why someone might do this?


Why someone might do that? The same as for just about everything else, money is the simple answer. Some shlub or crook sees a way to make a fast bit of money by accepting a translation offer, having someone else do it and getting paid for no work. Easy-peasy. As I mentioned just today in another "Scams" thread here on Proz, this huge, publicly accessible database is like the fabled pot of gold at the end of a scammer's rainbow. You might want to skim through the Proz "Scams" forum and the Scam Alert Center at http://www.proz.com/about/translator-scam-alerts/. It will probably be eye-opening. The internet is a boon as well as a curse. The underbelly of it is not very nice, and translators have become pretty easy targets because of the rather insular type of work we do. I hope it doesn't happen to you again. I'm sorry that you had a bad experience, but you were fairly lucky to get off rather lightly. Many others have lost a lot more, unfortunately. Education is the best defense.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:14
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Just one obvious omission Aug 28, 2015

I sympathise - there seem to be no end of ways we can be cheated out of our hard-earned pay. Of course you should maybe have waited for your bank's confirmation, but...

Stll, it surprises me that you don't seem to have the client's postal address. Isn't it something you need for the invoice? Of course, if it's an out-and-out scam it will be a total invention.


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Andrea Schwam
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:14
Member (2012)
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
everything was faked Aug 28, 2015

Hi Sheila,

Thanks for your question. In fact, I was given an address, but it turned out to be fake, along with the bank document.
I should INDEED have waited until the money was safely in my account...."she" just seemed so nice, and the subject matter was interesting. Also, it was perfect timing because the due date was when I was leaving for a week of vacation.
I am going to the French police tomorrow, but I'm not sure that will turn up any answers!


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:14
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
i would never.... Aug 28, 2015

Never, never, never, ever accept work from a person with just a Gmail address without first obtaining confirmation via a working telephone number and verified physical address.

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Robin Levey
Chile
Local time: 11:14
Spanish to English
+ ...
Errr... Aug 29, 2015

Woodstock wrote:

... a way to make a fast bit of money by accepting a translation offer, having someone else do it and getting paid for no work.


Isn't that the dictionary definition of the term "translation agency" ... ?


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:14
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Another: never, ever... Aug 29, 2015

Jeff Whittaker wrote:

Never, never, never, ever accept work from a person with just a Gmail address without first obtaining confirmation via a working telephone number and verified physical address.


You've spoken (written ) my mind, Jeff.


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