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New, elaborate scam scheme explained
Thread poster: ettore

ettore  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:13
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
Mar 5

Ready to learn about a new scamming scheme that started targeting the translation business, and I’m sure will have more and more small agencies falling for it? This is an elaborate fraud, not the usual Languagemet/MuchDo/TranslationSecrets impersonation scheme. Sit down and pay attention: long story explained, buth worth investing time in reading and under standing it since you could be the next one

//--- The participants ---//
You- Translation agency (the smaller the better) or freelance translator lured into becoming a broker for a language pair you don’t offer. We will refer to you as John Victim
The outsourcer.- One side of the scamming scheme.Always a ghost: can introduce him/herself with the name of a well-known academic researcher, CEO of a Company, etc., but hidden behind a GMail address, an hotmail address, and providing no physical address, or providing any real address (sometimes matching online with the name, why not) alongwith no phone number or with a nonworking one, or even with a working one but a mobile number from Nigeria, Thailand, Pakistan (three Countries spotted, but can be more). This not a real person, it’s a ghost, even though h/she can impersonate a real/well-known one in order to be more credible. We will refer to him/her as Willy Ghost
The translator.- Other side of the scamming ring. H/She can be a real person, and while h/she’s probably the real “scamming brain”, h/she won’t do anything illegal, anything suspicious. H/she just offers a translation, delivers a translation, and requests payment. H/she can provide his/her real name, a traceable email address, a working telephone number (often a mobile one, again from Nigeria, Thailand, Pakistan…) and can request payment via PayPal, Western Union, but also via Bank Transfer to his/her name. We will refer to him/her as Johnny Translator
The 3rd Party Fund Provider.- H/She is a real person who bids on items using an online auction website or service. H/She is real, his/her money is real, but h/she doesn’t know anything about the translation scam and won’t get in contact with you unless… needed by the scamming ring. We will refer to him/her as Arnold MoneyProvider.

//--- The story ---//
Since a few weeks you keep receiving applications with CVs from several Johnny Translator, all offering unusual/rare language couples (English>Zulu, Russian>Thai, French>Urdu, and so on). If you are a translation agency, you file them somewhere, thinking you would probably never use them. If you are a freelancer you probably delete them, since you are sure they will beo f no use for you.

One day here comes the client, Willy Ghost with an academic paper of several thousand words (50,000? 60,000? Or even more) with a quotation request for the translation in a very common language couple (say English>French if you are an agency) or in your main language couple (say English>French if you offer yourself an an EN>FR translator) but ALSO in a very uncommon one (oh, look, the English>Zulu you had an application for, just a few days ago). Willy Ghost tells you that the translation will be published and needs a very short sample in both target languages in order to evaluate quality. You can choose a couple sentences fromt he original text and submit them alongwith your quotation.

Fair enough. You ask your best translator EN>FR to translate a couple sentences, and you look for the recently archived EN>Zulu cooperation offers if there is a translator willing to quote and submit a test. If you are a freelancer, you do your best to provide a sample with a perfect French translation and you look for those EN>Zulu cooperation offers you received. If you deleted them, don’t worry: chances are that you will receive them again the same day!

If you don’t supply the EN>Zulu sample Willy Ghost will tell you that h/she wants a quote for both, since they prefer having a single translation provider and not having to deal with multiple translators. This will push freelancers to go beyond usual habits/practice and accept to become a broker for the EN>Zulu translation. After all, why not? If Willy Ghost will accept you will provide your own EN>FR translation and resell the EN>Zulu one with a fair surcharge.

You receive EN>Zulu samples (maybe more than one if you already have EN>Zulu offers archived), and submit them to Willy Ghost together with the EN>FR sample. Johnny Translator supplies the sample and tells you that he wants to be paid at least 50% upfront, since you never worked together and he’s ben scammed before. The EN>FR sample is considered a good quality one. If it’s not the Zulu sample provided by Johnny Translator the EN>Zulu sample is rejected as being not the kind of quality Willy Ghost needs, while is accepted as good quality one if it’s Johnny Translator’s work (wonder how Willy Ghost will recognize it?). Willy Ghost will even discuss a bit the price and payment terms, to make you feeling h/she’s a real/legit customer.

Now here we are with you, John victim, having this new job opportunity and just analyzing measures not to be scammed. Where’s the weak side? OK, you don’t know Willy Ghost. You can ask an anticipated payment for the translation, right? That’s all, since the EN>FR translator iso ne of your best collaborators (or YOU are the RN>FR translator), and the EN>Zulu one supplied a test that was accepted as a good quality one. If you ensure you are paid everything is OK. You therefore ask for a 50% upfront payment (for the two translations we are talking about some 10,000Euros total, right? Let’s ask for 5000 upfront), or even for 100% upfront payment. A bit of discussion with Willy Ghost (who maybe cannot be reached by phone because “h/she’s travelling” or something) but at the end h/she agrees. H/she asks you to wait a few days so that h/she gets the PO approved from his/her Purchase Manager and…hoplà the PO arrives, BUT you need to deliver the translation in batches, with the first one after 7-8-9 days. You will be paid 100% in advance. Do you agree?
Of course, you agree. Everything is OK, you are safe with a PO and an advenced payment. Willy Ghost asks you to proceed as soon as the payment shows up in your account. Oh, and there’s a money lender and benefactor who will cover the cost of the translation, Mr. Arnold MoneyProvider.

You get the money in your account. Therefore, you send a PO to your EN>FR translator and to Johnny Translator for the EN>Zulu one too, asking them to deliver a first batch after 10 days. You pay 50% to Johnny Translator, as requested, via PayPal (you don’t want to pay via PayPal? He will even provide a Bank account on his name, in Nigeria) after receving a regular pro-forma invoice.
After 10 days, you receive the first batch, you deliver it to Willy Ghost and tell the translators to continue with the second batch. Just one or two days later you receive mail from Willy Ghost telling you that everything is ok and you should keep up the good work. You end up receiving and delivering French and Zulu translations,

A perfect job. You got paid in advance by the final client Willy Ghost, You found an EN>Zulu translation whose test was accepted by the final client, and you had your best EN>FR translator (or you are the one) working for it. You pay the remaining 50% to Johnny Translator, and the 100% to your best RN>FR translator (or keep it for yourself if you are the one). Everyhing is OK, right?

No, you have been scammed. What happened?
a) Willy Ghost is a ghost, as we said. H/she doesn’t exist. If you ever happened to speak with him/her by the phone you called a Nigerian/Pakistani/Thai mobile and spoke with the scammer
b) Johnny Translator is a scammer but h/she is a real person. H/she provided a Zulu translation (no matter how googletranslated it is, it was accepted by the final client, saving you time in checking whether it was a quality one or not), and h/she provided/will provide a regular invoice, even with Bank data for the payment,
c) Arnold MoneyProvider is a real person, but the one who will wake you up one day with bad news.

Again, what happened?
Scammers did impersonate... you. They lured a customer (Arnold MoneyProvider) who bid on items using an online auction website or service into sending money for the item on sale to you, John Victim, Bank account xxxyyzz Bank XY (your full Bank account data) or via PayPal to (whatever your PayPal address is). Scammers have been pleased to discuss price and delivery both via email (scammer's newly created gmail address John.Victim@gmail.com ) or by phone (the mobile phone number, the Nigerian/Pakistani/Thai one). When the Arnold MoneyProvider customer confirms to John.Victim@gmail.com that the money has been sent, Willy Ghost will contact you telling you to check your Bank/Paypal account, and send her the translation. After some time Arnold MoneyProvider doesn't see the purchased item, doesn't receive replies from the seller (you, John Victim, at John.Victim@gmail.com or the Nigerian/Pakistani/Thai mobile phone number) and files a complaint with the local police. The police will track and find you (the real John Victim) via your Bank account data (and even via PayPal address, if this was the payment method used). You will find a local authority informing you that you are under investigation for onlilne fraud attempt, and asking you to either send to Arnold MoneyProvider the purchased item, or send the money back to Arnold MoneyProvider. You can explain to whatever local authority that you received the money for a translation, showing them emails with Willy Ghost, but at the end of the story they will tell you that you have been scammed, since you are legally bound to wire the money back to Arnold MoneyProvider if you cannot send the purchased item.

End of the story. You paid a scammer for 50% + 50% English>Zulu translation, but you can’t sue him/her since you regularly paid for something you asked and received, with a regular invoice and with a Bank Transfer. You paid your best EN>FR translator for his job (or, if you are the one, you worked for free). You have to wire the full paid amount back to Arnold MoneyProvider.
Beware! All this already happened. We have news from at least 2 Agencies who felt for this scam. In one case this was stopped at the beginning, with minimal loss of funds. In the first case the scam was discovered at the end and the loss amounted to 11,000 Euros (with 6,000 Euros wired to the scammer, Johnny Translator. This can therefore happen again, because it’s elaborate, it’s difficult to spot (since your attention is sidetracked and focused on the “where’s my money” side, and you are busy checking sides that keep you away from the real scam), and is 100% safe for the scammer(s) (since you will never have evidence that they scammed you).

How to avoid falling for such a scam scheme?
a) Be suspicious if you happen to have a quotation request from a new client for a huge quantity of text in an uncommon language couple.
b) Always check client’s identity, being suspicious if they have untraceable email addresses (GMail, hotmail) only and no landline telephone number. Use Google to search for their names, and ask for clarifications to Willy.Ghost@gmail.com with phone number +234 809 083xxxx if you happen to find that the well-known Academic researcher Willy Ghost lives in Norway and maybe has a Norwegian landline phone number published (call him/her, to ensure you are mailing with the same person)
c) If you see money from a new customer hitting your Bank account, or your PayPal account, this doesn’t always mean everything is OK. Check the sender: is h/she the one h/she is supposed to be? Stop everything if Arnold MoneyProvider happens to pay for Willy Ghost, in particolar if you cannot trace Willy Ghost and be sure you are really talking with him/her.

Ettore R. Peyrot
Ability Services


 

Daniel Frisano
Monaco
Local time: 07:13
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
Thanks for the heads up Mar 5

For quite some time I have been receiving applications from alleged translators. The pattern is always identical, regardless of language pair. Example:


Subject: A Qualified English into Finnish Translator and Vice versa

Hi,

Having powerful and strong language skills in both English and Finnish, I am writing to apply for the position of English < > Finnish Translator and Proofreader at your respected company.

[More stuff]

Applicant’s Signature
[Finnish first name, English last name]


 

Paweł Hamerski
Poland
Local time: 07:13
English to Polish
+ ...
I am too lazy to fall into such a trap, moreover Mar 5

I don't work for strangers (my kind of strangers, definition pending), the document to be translated has to be real (my kind of real, definition pending), I have problems with my sense of smell but not with my sense of reality, etc.

 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 23:13
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Thanks Mar 5

It always amazes me how someone can devise such a scheme but I guess scammers and other crooks are smarter than I am. It looks like this scheme would apply more to (small) agencies than to independent translators but anything is possible of course. I get this kind of emails all the time but Thunderbird sends them directly to my junk folder and from there they are deleted within 3 days. I don't look at them and I don't keep them.

 

Octavio Armendariz  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:13
Member (2012)
French to English
+ ...
I too have been getting emails like yours Mar 5

I too have been getting emails like yours. I always assumed that the document attached had a virus or malware. I didn't occur to that it could be scam.

 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:13
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Ettore Mar 6

ettore wrote:
After some time Arnold MoneyProvider doesn't see the purchased item, doesn't receive replies from the seller ... and files a complaint with the local police.


Or... performs a charge-back?


 

Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:13
Member
English to Italian
Wider application? Mar 6

WOW, that sounds extremely sophisticated (and worrying)...

So, in theory, they could use the same scheme even without "Johnny Translator" (the fake translator), in that they could be "buying" a translation from us (using someone else's money) only to resell it to a "real" outsourcer... Or would that be considered too risky, since source text and end client would also be real (with a risk of being tracked down)? I believe similar scams are relatively common in our industry.

At any rate, it would be even more difficult to protect yourself from a scammer that agrees to pay you in advance...

Samuel Murray wrote:

ettore wrote:
After some time Arnold MoneyProvider doesn't see the purchased item, doesn't receive replies from the seller ... and files a complaint with the local police.


Or... performs a charge-back?


I doubt that's possible with a wire transfer, and I suspect it's not possible either when purchasing services (as opposed to physical products) with PayPal (but I'm not sure about that and I'd appreciate it if someone could confirm or deny). Probably that would be possible if "Arnold MoneyProvider" paid with credit card...


 

Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
Chargeback Mar 6

EU law has a 13-month chargeback rule. If the legitimate account holder contests that they approved a payment, the payment service provider must return the money immediately. It is then for the payment service provider to prove that the account holder did approve the payment. The account holder has 13 months to contest.

I have not heard about examples related to bank accounts and bank transfers, but it could happen, for example if an account is hacked. Many banks are improving security with OTPs (one-time passwords), though. The risk is probably much higher with PayPal, as anyone can open an account and pay with a pirated credit card.

It all just demonstrates the importance of due diligence, so we know who we are doing business with.


 

ettore  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:13
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Wider application of the scheme Mar 6

Mirko Mainardi is correct. This scheme can have wider applications, more or less safe for the scamming ring. I don't think using a third party payer to fund a real translation job will be common/frequent, since it's easily traceable.

This scheme has basically one purpose: to have someone (translation agency or freelancer, our john Victim) sending money to a scammer (our Johnny Translator) without checking quality, payment method, etc. because is busy somewhere else (getting the money from the final client) AND having the scammer free from all accusations (h/she provided a translation, h/she needs to be paid).

Arnold MoneyProvider can file a charge-back or proceed legally in different ways, he will get the money back from John Victim, who will be the actual one and only victim of the scam.


 

Kuochoe Nikoi  Identity Verified
Ghana
Local time: 05:13
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Wow, scammers are so... Mar 9

ettore wrote:
If you are a freelancer, you do your best to provide a sample with a perfect French translation and you look for those EN>Zulu cooperation offers you received. If you deleted them, don’t worry: chances are that you will receive them again the same day!

it’s not the Zulu sample provided by Johnny Translator the EN>Zulu sample is rejected as being not the kind of quality Willy Ghost needs, while is accepted as good quality one if it’s Johnny Translator’s work (wonder how Willy Ghost will recognize it?). [/quote]
What an elaborate scheme. But it sounds like it can be avoided fairly easily by refusing to use Johnny Translator for this project. Even if it weren't a scam, it would still be risky to use a brand-new translator for a very large project involving a new client.

Uhh, but as someone based in a third-world country known for its scams, I feel I should defend my honour: we're not all scammers! Honest!

[Edited at 2018-03-09 16:34 GMT]


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 07:13
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Confidence trick, yes Mar 9

Kuochoe Nikoi wrote:
It sounds like it can be avoided fairly easily by refusing to use Johnny Translator for this project. Even if it weren't a scam, it would still be risky to use a brand-new translator for a very large project involving a new client.


Yes, it's a confidence trick (i.e. tricks the victim into trusting the wrong party). It abuses the weaknesses in the way translators/agencies evaluate whether a translator is a good translator.

One common way to validate a new translator is with a test translation. The agency then gets a trusted party to review the test (usually another translator). The trick works because it is unlikely that the agency will already have a trusted English-Zulu translator on its books to independently validate the translator. If the client had succeeded in convincing the agency that he (the client) is legitimate and not a scammer (e.g. by really paying real money in advance), the agency would be tempted to accept the client's expertise to validate the Zulu translator.

In my experience, many smaller agencies now forego internal review of test translations and accept or assume that the client is responsible for validating new translators. This may also be because more end-clients now insist on test translations (sometimes even for each new project), even if the agency is satisfied with the translator it assigns to that end-client.

The only way to avoid this scam (if you've decided to play agency), is to accept only tasks in languages for whom you can independently validate the translators' quality. This means not accepting lucrative, rare language combinations in which there are no translators.


 

Georgie Scott  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:13
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
Confused Mar 9

Would you really be obliged to return the money in that situation? Could you really be accused of fraud when you had no contact with Johnny Moneyprovider? You have absolutely no agreement whatsoever with him. At no point have you offered him something in exchange for that money so I can't see how you could be liable.

Surely the onus is entirely on "whatever you called the first scammer" and Johnny Moneyprovider's insurance.... ?

I mean that as a genuine question rather than a statement of disbelief.


 

Daryo
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:13
Serbian to English
+ ...
Yes, you would have to Mar 10

Georgie Scott wrote:

Would you really be obliged to return the money in that situation? Could you really be accused of fraud when you had no contact with Johnny Moneyprovider? You have absolutely no agreement whatsoever with him. At no point have you offered him something in exchange for that money so I can't see how you could be liable.

Surely the onus is entirely on "whatever you called the first scammer" and Johnny Moneyprovider's insurance.... ?

I mean that as a genuine question rather than a statement of disbelief.


the money went into your account, sent by someone who doesn't need any translation but some goods. As you even don't have any idea what you should really deliver to the party who really paid you all you can do is to send the money back. I don't think that arguing that because some third parties were playing games of smoke and mirrors with you you were made to believe that you received payment for a translation is going to help you much.

Only shows that due diligence, however time it takes and however "good clients" it eliminates is worth it.



[Edited at 2018-03-10 01:59 GMT]


 

ettore  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:13
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
You are liable to send the money back Mar 10

@Grorgie Scott
>> Would you really be obliged to return the money in that situation?
Yes. Scammers will use you as a money mule, i.e. someone who is hired unknowingly for the scam, to “receive money” via wire transfer, and then transfer out the money. And yes, this is a very elaborate evolution of the classic "money mule fraud scheme". After the recent law enforcement actions against money mule schemes scammers are wisely creating new paths/schemes.
No matter how you think you're being asked to do something that doesn't look illegal, no matter how you never had direct contacts with the Arnold MoneyProvider, in most countries you are liable to send the money back to Arnold MoneyProvider.

@Samuel Murray
>> it's a confidence trick
A confidence trick + a sidetracking trick. Scammers not only tricks you into trusting the wrong party, but force you to pay attention to the wrong sides/parties and not to where the scam is and how it works. If you have Willy Ghost who pays for the job requested (via Arnold MoneyProvider, yes, but this is a detail which is accepted, you are not concerned -- or less concerned -- about who/where/how/why pays for a job when you see money wired in your Bank account), and accepts Johnny translator's translation as a good quality one, the last thing you think of is whether Johnny translator is scamming you, or even whether Willy Ghost who already paid is scamming you.

[Edited at 2018-03-10 11:54 GMT]


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:13
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
If you were the Arnold MoneyProvider, Mar 10

would you pay a large sum to Victim Translator about whom you have no idea?

Before I decide to buy an item, I always look at the feedback about the seller. I won't pay even $10, let alone thousands of dollars, to a seller who has less than 98% positive comments out of a couple of thousand buyer comments (I'm using Ebay as an example).

I wonder why this Arnold MoneyProvider would pay a large sum to Victim Translator, who has no record of positive feedback on the online auction website.

[Edited at 2018-03-10 18:24 GMT]

[Edited at 2018-03-10 18:24 GMT]


 
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