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Giving out personal data to agencies
Thread poster: Abigail Watson

Abigail Watson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:16
Italian to English
+ ...
Dec 1, 2016

Hello on this frosty December morning!

I am about to sign up with a translation agency based in London, and their registration form asks me to provide my National Insurance number and a copy of a passport / driving licence. I haven't come across this before, and I was wondering whether this is pretty standard? The reason that I'm reluctant to give out my NI number is that I know someone who was a victim of identity theft after somebody used their NI number. When I asked the agency for more information, the PM explained that the agency is ISO27001 certified and listed the lengths they go to to protect data; it sounds like they take it seriously and I know that they are a good agency to work for, since I'm applying on the recommendation of a colleague.

So, what are your thoughts on giving out personal data such as your NI number and driving licence or passport? Would you hand them over? Am I just being overly paranoid?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Abby


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Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:16
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Did the colleague ... Dec 1, 2016

... provide all this info too? Better to talk to this colleague first. You do actually know the "colleague", don't you? Not a virtual colleague somewhere on the web or anything like that?

Sounds suspect to me. I've never given an NI number or a passport copy to any customer in the UK or elsewhere in over 20 years, and I know some of them are ISO-certified setups.


Mervyn


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Abigail Watson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:16
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes, colleague was happy to provide the info! Dec 1, 2016

Thanks for your thoughts, Mervyn! I know the colleague well, so no issues from that perspective! He gave the agency the information they requested and says that they are a good agency to work for.

A couple of weeks ago I decided not to work for a different agency after reading their horrendous T&Cs and being told that they couldn't be altered... it seems like so many agencies have a catch!


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Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:16
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Maybe it's different ... Dec 1, 2016

... if you live in the UK, as you do. I'd quote them the NI number in that case, and send a photocopy of the driving licence (not the passport). Here the only number they want is your VAT number, and that has to go on all invoices anyway and just about anything else, but nobody ever asks for a photocopy of my passport.


Mervyn


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Gabriele Demuth  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:16
Member (2014)
English to German
What I would be interested in is... Dec 1, 2016

whether this is really necessary for ISO certification or whether they are just very keen to collect information for some reason?

I am also not not very happy to provide my date of birth as it is irrelevant and in combination with the NI number identity fraud is not so difficult.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:16
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
There are many ways to do due diligence Dec 1, 2016

Abigail Watson wrote:
their registration form asks me to provide my National Insurance number and a copy of a passport / driving licence. I haven't come across this before, and I was wondering whether this is pretty standard? The reason that I'm reluctant to give out my NI number is that I know someone who was a victim of identity theft after somebody used their NI number. When I asked the agency for more information, the PM explained that the agency is ISO27001 certified and listed the lengths they go to to protect data; it sounds like they take it seriously

They seriously need BOTH - your NI number AND your passport/driving licence? Have you tried telling them you don't have either of those two documents? What will they do then? I don't see this reaction of theirs as taking their certification seriously at all. I see it as them not understanding what on earth ISO is all about, so they're just following every recommendation they can find and then giving feeling proud of their "quality". To use a horrible new expression, it sucks . ISO is about due diligence and being able to look back at a future time to check that it was indeed done. They don't need any particular thing from you. They just need to know that you're a legitimate freelance translator who they can legally do business with and who isn't going to get them accused in the future of money laundering or whatever.

Regardless of what your friend says, have you tried Googling this agency to see what their overall reputation is like? How do they treat their suppliers (ProZ.com BB and similar; Payment Practices), their clients, their employees (Glassdoor)? If it's good then I'd advise you to either do as you're told or ask your tax authorities to come up with a note to say that you pay your taxes and social contributions as a self-employed person.


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Abigail Watson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:16
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for your help! Dec 1, 2016

That is precisely what worries me, Gabriele!

Thank you for your advice - I think that Gabriele and Sheila are right in that I need to look into exactly what the ISO requires and whether the agency would accept any alternatives. The letter from the tax authority sounds like a good idea! The agency scores quite highly on the Blue Board, so it's worth trying to reach a compromise at least.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts The fact that you all seem as surprised as me is reassuring, at least I'm not just being paranoid!


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 15:16
Member (2008)
French to English
ISO 27001 doesn't require personal data Dec 1, 2016

ISO 27001 has nothing to do with requiring personal data, it's about risk and security management to protect personal data.

I would never give out personal data. The only personal information I have ever given out is my sales tax numbers, which are required to prove that I have the right to collect sales tax. It's none of their business if you travel or drive.

[Edited at 2016-12-01 14:51 GMT]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 21:16
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
No, it is not standard, and should not become standard Dec 3, 2016

In most of Europe apart from the UK, you would probably have a VAT number. The threshold for VAT registration is far lower, and here in Denmark at least the procedures for small fry like translators with no employees or stocks of goods etc. are relatively simple.

You probably have a Tax Identity Number if you have registered as a company, and that is what the agency can use.

I have not read the requirements for ISO in the translation business, but they do not require anyone with a VAT number to give a personal number like your NI number, and I would never give them mine.

I have two separate numbers, a personal number in the Civil Register, which corresponds in Denmark to the NI number, and should not be passed on to the wrong people - it can be used for identity theft. It is my reference with the health services and all public authorities, and they can access sensitive personal information.
I would not give an agency my driving licence either.

Employers need to know an employee's personal number, so that they can pay in tax withheld at source, make pension contributions and so on. An agency does not do that for a freelancer - you have to do it yourself, or the equivalent.

The number I give agencies is my VAT number, which is required for exemption from VAT and tax on business expenses. Anyone can check that in the Danish companies register or the EU VIES VAT register. IT tells you very little, but it does show that I exist and run a legitimate one-person business, and when it was started. It would tell you if the business was no longer active and when it closed, or if it was bankrupt. It is also possible to pay for more details, but you would get very little for your money in my case.

You do NOT need to give clients access to your NI number, just because they send you a few thousand words to translate, even if you do hope you are going to have a long-term business relationship. Over the years you will have dozens of clients, a few regulars, and probably lots who only send a single job or a very few.

When you go to other professionals, make use of their services and pay them, you don't need to know their NI numbers and see their driving licences or passports... Imagine asking your car mechanic or a builder or a solicitor for details like that! They may have business cards or identity badges to show they really work for a particular firm, but they will not tell you their NI numbers. Why should translators be different?
Keep your business and private life separate as far as possible!

And best of luck!


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Macià Planas
Local time: 20:16
English to Spanish
+ ...
Similar situation Oct 16

I am in a similar situation so I decided to go through Proz forums to see if anyone was in the same situation. So I found this thread.

In my case, the translation agency is based in London and is asking me:
- Proof of residence (utility bill)
- A copy of my passport
- Proof of bank account (a bank statement)

This is suspiciously the same information you need to open a Paypal account or online Western Union account on my name. So I did not send it.

I wonder if this could be reported to the police as what they are asking me could be used to do identity theft and fraud. I have asked the agency what law requires them to ask for this information and they said "I will look into this for you".


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:16
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Agency identity already stolen, perhaps? Oct 16

Macià Planas wrote:
I have asked the agency what law requires them to ask for this information and they said "I will look into this for you".

Are you 100% sure that you are in fact in touch with the agency? Could it be that the agency name is being used by a scammer who is actually only interested in obtaining that information and has no interest in receiving a translation? If they contacted you, using an email address that looks legit and giving a link to the legitimate website, I would advise you to contact the agency by a different method (e.g. via their primary profile here on ProZ.com), just to make sure it really is them.


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Connected Trans  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:16
Member (May 2017)
Chinese to English
+ ...
Be careful! Oct 16

Macià Planas wrote:
In my case, the translation agency is based in London and is asking me:
- Proof of residence (utility bill)
- A copy of my passport
- Proof of bank account (a bank statement)


Definitely don't hand that information over unless they can explain exactly why they need each item. It is very strange to need all that off a freelancer - I've certainly never been asked for it.


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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 15:16
Member (2008)
French to English
Not required Oct 16

Connected Trans wrote:

Macià Planas wrote:
In my case, the translation agency is based in London and is asking me:
- Proof of residence (utility bill)
- A copy of my passport
- Proof of bank account (a bank statement)


Definitely don't hand that information over unless they can explain exactly why they need each item. It is very strange to need all that off a freelancer - I've certainly never been asked for it.


No translation agency needs that information.

- Proof of residence: you are not required to be the bill-payer in your household to do translations
- Passport: Someone who chooses not to travel outside their country doesn't usually need a passport. It doesn't stop them from being a translator.
- Bank account: may or may not be required to receive payments, depending on the platform used. I will only provide bank information when it comes time to make a bank transfer, not before. Payments by PayPal, Skrill, etc., do not require revealing your bank account.


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MK2010  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:16
Member (Jun 2017)
French to English
+ ...
Depends on the client Oct 17

If a translation agency is hiring translators for government work (i.e. they have clients that are government agencies), it's fairly normal for there to be requirements such as country of residence and so on. Then there are places that need to hire translators outside their country for tax purposes.
Personally, I've found that the bigger the organization, the more likely they are to ask for paperwork. Not always, but in several cases. Not everybody can just send you a few hundred bucks via PayPal no questions asked...
Go with your gut instinct.

[Edited at 2017-10-17 04:54 GMT]


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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:16
French to English
Distinction between being self-employeed and an employee Oct 17

As Christine has already pointed out, you are not an employee, but a potential business contact. The agent is a potential client. The nature of the relationship is such that they do not need this information.

They may wish to see the documents in question as a means of seeking to check in some way that you are who you say you are, and that you are resident in the UK and paying your contributions. Perhaps they've had problems in the past with people holding themseves out to be someone or something they are not. However, this is private information and not the sort of stuff to hand out left, right and centre to any Tom, Dick or Harry. Moreoever, they are making you feel awkward, when they are the ones asking for information they are not actually entitled to require from you.

The bottom line is that they can obtain any information they really need from official sources. The rest is your business, not theirs.


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