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Is this a scam? Send work before un-edited.
Thread poster: Sofia Calado

Sofia Calado  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:27
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Dec 19, 2015

Good morning/afternoon/evening,

I have a translation company in Timor-Leste (East Timor) and was recently approached by a US language service provider through Proz for a large translation into Tetum and Portuguese of an Aid Development Partner Report (75,000 words each document, to be delivered in less than 3 weeks).

I did my best, hired 4 people, worked overnight. Suddenly, yesterday, I receive an e-mail from such provider (which name I still prefer to keep as a secret) stating that the final client needs to put on hold these two translations, among other languages (requested to other translators than me - it is a report that needs to be translated into 10 languages), because they still did not get "final approval from government" due to holiday season.

However, the oddest part is that the provider asks me to send the un-edited work done so far - we were very close to the deadline so I already have the translations completed, although un-edited - in order they can show to the final client and bill accordingly before we resume the translations, once they have the final approval from government (they say we will get news from December 28 onwards). Does this make sense? How should I proceed? Should I send the work or wait?

Please support me on this, because I am quite uncomfortable with this situation and would like to get advice form more experienced translators.

Regards,

Sofia Calado


 

Anders O.  Identity Verified
Norway
Local time: 10:27
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Escrow Dec 19, 2015

If you're going to send it, you should tell your client to use a trusted escrow service: your client holds the agreed sum of money in escrow, proving to you they have the funds for the job.

I wouldn't send it just yet though. The least they could do is give you a purchase order first. In that case, if they don't pay in the end, you have evidence that this company scammed you.

The word "scam" isn't what comes to mind when I think of American companies, but you can never know. Be cautious!

[Edited at 2015-12-19 13:43 GMT]


 

Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
What's their reputation? Dec 19, 2015

You said nothing about what sort of Blue Board score they have, but that's a crucial aspect of this.

It looks as if it's the first time you work for them. Accepting such an order from a company you don't know is a risky business. Did you do anything to mitigate that risk?


 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:27
German to English
Probably not a scam Dec 19, 2015

It's possible that the US agency got ahead of itself and placed the order before final approval was issued.

I've worked on projects for US agencies in which the orders have been canceled by the end client for some reason, and the agency has asked me to send the work completed so far. I've always been paid for that work. I hope that's the case with your project.

That said, always perform due diligence for every new client, no matter the size of the project. It's a basic principle of risk management.

Good luck!


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 09:27
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Doesn't look like a scam to me... Dec 19, 2015

Fortunately this has never happened to me (I do not accept long projects from first time clients without some kind of advance payment), but if I were in your shoes I would send only a part of the file, probably the last pages (5 to 10 at the maximum) just as a proof that the work is almost done and say that the remaining pages will be sent after they pay a reduced rate for the unedited translation, a percentage of the agreed fee or any other agreement you deem fair.

 

Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:27
Member (2014)
English to German
I would be a bit worried? Dec 19, 2015

The job needs to be put on hold because final approval has not been given? What happens if it is not approved? Will they still want the translation? On hold for how long?

It is a big job and maybe you could ask for explanation, and for part-payment or payment for the work done so far, as they would have to pay that anyway, even if they didn't want the translation any more.


 

Natalie  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 10:27
Member (2002)
English to Russian
+ ...

MODERATOR
Hi Sofia Dec 19, 2015

Sofia Calado wrote:

I ... was recently approached by a US language service provider through Proz for a large translation...


Was the person who has approached you logged in? In other words, is there a registered profile at ProZ.com?

Is there a Blue Board record for this company? Did you check it?

Was the email address "official"/"corporate" (i.e. of the "...@companyname.com" or alike) or was it a gmail, yahoo, hotmail or other free email address?

Did you check the company background?


 

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:27
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
What I have done in the past is... Dec 20, 2015

Place a large diagonal watermark on the Word document (Page Layout > Watermark) that says "DRAFT: PROPERTY OF TETUM TRANSLATIONS....", convert the document into a locked (uneditable/unprintable) PDF document and send it to them along with an invoice for the full amount (minus proofreading costs unless this was included in your fee to the translators), then offer to edit the project (and remove the watermark) when they get funding.

[Edited at 2015-12-20 00:50 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:27
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Snap, Jeff! Dec 20, 2015

Jeff Whittaker wrote:
Place a large diagonal watermark on the Word document ...

and so on.

Exactly what I was just about to post.

Doesn't sound like a scam to me. More like a very fair agency trying to make tge best of a bad situation for everyone. But I could be wrong.


 

Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:27
Member (2014)
English to German
I would still be concerned Dec 20, 2015

It sounds to me as if someone had jumped the gun and commissioned a translation of a document that had not been approved yet, so there may not be any funding and client as well as agency may try to reduce damages, e.g. try not pay the translator and it may become a fight to get as much as possible for the work that was commissioned to the OP.


[Edited at 2015-12-20 11:35 GMT]


 

Kuochoe Nikoi  Identity Verified
Ghana
Local time: 09:27
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
I smell a rat Dec 20, 2015

Sheila Wilson wrote:
Doesn't sound like a scam to me. More like a very fair agency trying to make the best of a bad situation for everyone.

By getting work (I assume) it hasn't paid for? If they want the unedited work it's fine to send it to them, but only after they send full payment for the work done. The translators who did the work still need to be paid. It's not their fault the agency didn't get "final approval from the government" before commissioning the translation.

Send a few pages as proof first if you must, but don't bother with the full watermarked version: it would be too easy for an agency that large to hire transcribers to type it all out again.


 

José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 07:27
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Easy to remove Dec 20, 2015

Jeff Whittaker wrote:

Place a large diagonal watermark on the Word document (Page Layout > Watermark) that says "DRAFT: PROPERTY OF TETUM TRANSLATIONS....", convert the document into a locked (uneditable/unprintable) PDF document and send it to them along with an invoice for the full amount (minus proofreading costs unless this was included in your fee to the translators), then offer to edit the project (and remove the watermark) when they get funding.


This watermark, if done "properly" with PDF-generating resources, is very easy to remove with other PDF-generating resources (I mean Infix).

The safer way would be to convert all PDF pages with the watermark, into JPGs, and then rebuild a PDF with these images. However if it is a scam, cheap typing services will thwart the honest party in the deal.

An effective solution I found (incidentally, in Portuguese) for MS Word files is to - ON A BACKUP COPY!!! - search and replace all occurrences of the vowels A-E-I-O with asterisks. Nope, leave the Us untouched, otherwise it becomes unrecognizable.

The receiver will be able to play 'hangman' and recognize some words as actually being the translation of the source text. However the work involved to play hangman over the entire text is SO much, even having the source text as hints, that it's worth paying for it.

I used this strategy with a couple of 'suspicious' first-time clients, and got paid immediately, so they'd have the real thing sent forthwith.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:27
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Password removal? Dec 21, 2015

Jeff Whittaker wrote:
Place a large diagonal watermark on the Word document (Page Layout > Watermark) that says "DRAFT: PROPERTY OF TETUM TRANSLATIONS....", convert the document into a locked (uneditable/unprintable) PDF document and send it to them along with an invoice for the full amount (minus proofreading costs unless this was included in your fee to the translators), then offer to edit the project (and remove the watermark) when they get funding.

Are you sure such a document would be safe from PDF password removal software? I would not bet on it... Maybe if one adds a certified signature...


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:27
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Wait Dec 21, 2015

Sofia Calado wrote:
However, the oddest part is that the provider asks me to send the un-edited work done so far - we were very close to the deadline so I already have the translations completed, although un-edited - in order they can show to the final client and bill accordingly before we resume the translations, once they have the final approval from government (they say we will get news from December 28 onwards). Does this make sense? How should I proceed? Should I send the work or wait?

Personally, I would not send any work until you have received an advance payment for at least half the amount. You are not the one who deals with the end customer: they are. Let them assume the risk of lack of payment. If what they want is proof that you have performed the work to their quality expectations, maybe I would send a sample of the work (two pages here and there) for them to examine.

New & unknown customer, a project that is not yet fully approved, no advance payment, large project.... To me, you got all the lottery tickets to lack or payment, or sheer scam.


 

Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:27
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Holiday season Dec 21, 2015

It seems a bit odd that the reason given is a holiday season from 18 December to 28 December. Is there anywhere where this is the norm?

I wouldn't send anything just yet because to me this looks and walks like a duck, but I imagine Sofia's more worried about having to cover payment to 4 translators, whether the customer pays or not.

I can't suggest anything other than mentally giving them the benefit of the doubt, and politely explaining to them an obvious reluctance to send near-complete drafts at this late stage with no guarantee of anything in return. It may all be perfectly innocent, but their reply to that one should be quite revealing one way or the other.


Mervyn


 
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