Scam by a ProZ imitator?
Thread poster: Marinus Vesseur

Marinus Vesseur  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:17
English to Dutch
+ ...
Dec 28, 2009

About a translation 'mediation' site that might skim off the good jobs before they post the rest.

Hi all

Like many of you I am registered on various translation 'communities' that offer job postings. Last year business was a little slow for me, so I had to look at job offers I normally would have binned immediately.

I noticed the following:

A rather large site with the word "base" in it always proved very true to its name: the prices were the absoluty lowest anywhere on the market. It's like they specifically went looking for the worst they could find and post it there. Trial membership of the site is free, but then it won't show you the contact details of the job poster. Full membership is 129 dollars (199 if you have a website with them), more expensive than ProZ!

How could the scam work?

Businesses are invited to post their translation jobs. They see the huge list of registered translators and are led to believe that their job is posted for all translators to bid on. What really happens is that the people of xxxxxxxxxxxbase (also called xxxxxxsoft) skim the good jobs off and post the uninteresting leftovers. They probably are an agency themselves or they closely cooperate with one; the site looks like a trap to gather jobs under false pretences and at the same time collect membership fees from unsuspecting members and agencies.

I suspect there aren't many translators who'd keep paying full membership when they notice that no decent jobs are forthcoming, but this kind of scam may still bring in thousands of dollars through one-year-and-never-again-memberships.

I wanted to see if my suspicions were true, so I posted a job in Dutch, including all details. Since the people at xxxx couldn't read it, I got a mail within a few minutes, asking me for more details. The job never got posted. I did it again, making sure that the form was completely filled in, but the results were the same: someone from xxxx sent me a mail requesting for more info (always in English). The 'jobs' never got posted.

It would be interesting to see if someone else gets the same response when posing as a client. If you do, make some screenshots of your 'job posting' and record the results. It may be a good idea to use a different e-mail address than your usual one.

PM me or send me a mail if you'd like to know what site/agency I'm talking about.

Looking forward to your replies.

[Edited at 2009-12-28 18:18 GMT]


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 16:17
French to German
+ ...
A known reputation Dec 28, 2009

Hi Marinus,
on another forum, the site you are writing about has been called an "online ghost" - which it indeed is.


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jaymin
Canada
Local time: 10:17
Member (2009)
German to Korean
+ ...
finally.. Dec 28, 2009

it seems to me that scamming tech is moving into translation area.

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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:17
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I wonder if the same scam is being worked by another site that I signed up for Dec 28, 2009

Numbers in the name. Ring a bell to anyone?

The jobs that are offered within the Spanish-to-English pair consist mainly of one- or two-page birth certificates, and perhaps half a dozen of these a month. Either the guy who runs the site has the worst marketing skills known to mankind or he is running a scam similar to the one described by Marinus.

An absolute ripoff and an outrage!!

[Edited at 2009-12-28 20:30 GMT]


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Marinus Vesseur  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:17
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Borderline scam Dec 28, 2009

Thanks Laurent. Excellent tip. You were bang on right with your guess.

I posted this 'over there' as well:

Since above people keep sending me junk jobs despite the fact that I unsubscribed and I had a little time I thought I'd test them by posing as a potential client and posting a job.

The reply was practically immediate: please give us your full company details and more info on the job. I didn't do that, so the job never got posted.

I did it again, this time under another name, making sure to fill in every requested detail. I made it sound like I had a technical manual to be translated from English into Dutch, 20000 words.

The reply came immediately (obviously automatically): please give us your company details first. I did so, after which I received an Instant Quote of 3200 USD from xxx itself, about half an hour later.

I also started receiving offers from people who wanted to bid on the jobs, so, fair is fair, the job DID get posted on the board as well. Even so, the Instant Quote concept is a deliberate attempt to skim off the good and well-paying jobs. In other words xxxxxxxxbase itself is your worst competitor on xxxxxxxxbase.

Since they pretend to be job mediators only and charge translators and agencies accordingly, this company in my opinion definitely belongs in the scam department. The only serious sites of this kind I've found thus far are ProZ and a few others, but the bidding system generally produces mainly crap nowadays, never mind where you look.

Your best bet probably is creating professional websites associated with ProZ or any of the other, more professional sites and/or to become a member of your local professional organization.

On a side note: something that keeps me up at night is the ruthless competion translators are willing to subject themselves to. Globalisation is killing this profession because we as translators show not a shred of solidarity. The market is flooded with professional freelancers willing to lower their quality level offering 'Asian' prices and worse.

In the meantime I've received 4 offers within an hour, ranging from 0.05 to 0.08 euro per word. That is less than half what it should be and none of the bidders have seen the document yet (I posted it as a PDF file, available on request)! For the sake of curiosity I wrote all of them back that the price would have to be 0.04 euros per word. I'll play the game a little longer and I'll let you know how low my 'professional colleagues' are willing to go.

It's mean, I know, but how else are we going to find out what the true situation is?

- Rien

Laurent KRAULAND wrote:

Hi Marinus,
on another forum, the site you are writing about has been called an "online ghost" - which it indeed is.


[Edited at 2009-12-28 21:05 GMT]


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 16:17
French to German
+ ...
You don't need to worry about marketing skills Dec 28, 2009

Robert Forstag wrote:

Numbers in the name. Ring a bell to anyone?

The jobs that are offered within the Spanish-to-English pair consist mainly of one- or two-page birth certificates, and perhaps half a dozen of these a month. Either the guy who runs the site has the worst marketing skills known to mankind or he is running a scam similar to the one described by Marinus.

An absolute ripoff and an outrage!!


The translators who tried out the site described by Marinus found out the same things: small (not to say "odd") jobs, birth certificates to be translated etc.

I cannot give you the link to the forum I mentioned in my previous post, but will do it in a PM if needed.


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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:17
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
You are doing a great thing to bring these things up. Dec 28, 2009

You have my support.

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JaneTranslates  Identity Verified
Puerto Rico
Local time: 10:17
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Thank you, Marinus. Dec 28, 2009

And thanks to the others who have shared their knowledge and experience. This is my only translators' site, and I don't know what sites you are referring to. I had no idea this sort of thing was being done, but I can't say I'm surprised. We need to know about all kinds of scams and how they work. We can't possibly be warned about each individual scam and scammer, but we need to be aware and train our judgment so that we can recognize them when we encounter them.

As jyuan_us wrote:

You are doing a great thing to bring these things up.

You have my support.


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Marinus Vesseur  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:17
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Borderline scam Dec 28, 2009

Your welcome. And thank YOU for your reply.

I did put a posting with some more detailed information on this thread, but that posting hasn't been published yet (I forgot to remove the name of the site).

It turns out that the site in question isn't a full-scale scammer, meaning it probably isn't illegal. It is, however, definitely misleading. The posted jobs are e-mailed to paying members, but only AFTER xxxxxxxbase has quoted on the job itself. It's this mix of seemingly neutral board with translation agency that bothers me. The entrepeneurs behind this are trying to milk the cow from both ends: translators and agencies pay up to 199 dollars per year for their membership, but at the same time the website owner/agency skims the best jobs off for himself.

Like Laurent said, you can find more details on ProZ' competitor site (something with café).

Here's another reason not to deal with such shady boards and forums: you give them a password, your data, your credit card details. Who knows what these people are doing with it?

Another lesson learned.

- Rien


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sokolniki  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:17
English to Russian
+ ...
I used to pay.. Dec 29, 2009

.. for their membership for a couple of years, and to be honest, I had a very interesting and lucrative 3-months-long interpretation assignment through them exactly 4 years ago. Later on, no projects came and I stopped paying for membership - primarily because of the high price.

Now guess what: I went to their xxxxxxxxxbase.com website and found my profile in the lists WITH THE PHOTO FROM MY PROZ PROFILE WHICH I PLACED LESS THAN A YEAR AGO! And I did not go to their website to update my profile there for at least two years - I cannot believe they stole it from Proz. Un-freaking-believable..


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 12:17
English to Portuguese
+ ...
A few points Dec 29, 2009

Marinus Vesseur wrote:
On a side note: something that keeps me up at night is the ruthless competion translators are willing to subject themselves to. Globalisation is killing this profession because we as translators show not a shred of solidarity. The market is flooded with professional freelancers willing to lower their quality level offering 'Asian' prices and worse.


It's not a matter of solidarity, but simply poor business practice. Imagine if you bought some property, and found a lot of gold there. It doesn't matter if it was in a casket or a mine. If you sell that gold too cheap, you'll make a lot of cash quickly, but some day you'll run out of it.

All translators get the same 24 hours per day, and what they actually sell is the hours of use of their skills. All right, some translators' hours are worth gold, others' are barely worth anything. The problem is in selling their time cheaper than it's worth for no reason at all.

The whole scam is here is in charging a fee, nothing else. If they are a translation agency too, if they have an internal translating staff, and will only outsource whatever they don't want or cannot handle internally, it's all right! However they shouldn't charge a fee from anyone taking their hand-me-down jobs.

I have a friend/translator/client who plays it wide open. As both of us work with video/DVD, depending on the budget and our availability, sometimes she'll ask me to do the whole job, but in other cases she'll have me only translate, and she'll take it from there. If the project, the client, or both are too complicated, she'll simply refer the client to me or someone else in her "virtual team", and step out. However nobody pays her any fee to be on that "virtual team". She pays us on the dot for whatever work we provide her. That's fair play.


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Marinus Vesseur  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:17
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Not a scam after all Dec 29, 2009

My little devilish experiment is finished. Here's the report:

I posted an imaginary job in my own language combination and specialty on xxxxxxxxxxbase to see if the site works, i.e. whether the job really gets posted, whether xxxxxxxxxxbase interferes in any way, whether my data is kept confidential, whether the offers are any good, etc.

The good news first: it works. I got 12 quotes from translators all over the world (4 from NL, 1 from BE, 1 from NL Antilles, 1 from Egypt, 1 from Thailand, 3 from USA, 1 from China). The offers started trickling in within about half an hour of posting. The entire site and the e-mailing system work very well, as a matter of fact. Also there was no indication that the job got posted elsewhere (yet?) or that my fictional data were abused (received no spam at the provided e-mail address) so that does seem to indicate a measure of professional integrity. One curiosity: you don't have to be registered with xxxxxxxxxxbase at all to be able to see the job posting (without the contact info). Google "machine manual Dutch" and you'll find it. Still, as an outsourcer I would actually recommend it.

But...

.. as mentioned before, the first quote you get is a so-called Instant Quote from xxxxxxxxxxbase itself. The price per word they offer is 0.16 'USD and their proposed deadline is 18 Jan, which is not too bad, except that they shouldn't be doing this, I think. Whether or not this is abuse is a bit difficult to say, since their system lacks transparency.

And then there were the 12 quotes..

..ranging from 0.10 Euro per word (the highest!) to .. wait for it... 0.009 USD per word. The cheapest offer came from Thailand - 180 dollars for 20,000 words within 8 days was the exact quote.

The highest price (0.10 euro) was quoted by three translators, two in the Netherlands and one in Belgium. These people also came across as the most professional of the lot: they provided good references, had a high quality rating and their English was good. They were not readily prepared to lower their price, which I personally think is a good sign, since it means they have confidence in their performance and are obviously not lowering their standards. They generally lacked the marketing skills of their US colleagues, though.

Several offers were around 0.05 or 0.06 Euro per word. When I pushed a little they came down to 1000 or even 800 Euros for the entire job (it was a pdf, remember?). One guy offered 1200 USD, and after 'negotiation' he came down to 800 USD (0.04 USD per word).

Surprisingly, the offers from the US were the most appealing as far as price/quality ratio was concerned. One of the quotes was particularly appealing. The lady had the right credentials, used a pleasant 'tone' - not too laid back, but flexible - and made me believe she was going to do a good job within a reasonable time frame at a very competitive price. I felt bad about having to confess my little scheme to her, but she took it well.

By the way: I can't see a difference between male or female vendors here. I assumed female colleagues to be cheaper (sorry), but that was not generally the case.

I would say that about a third of the people quoting on the job disqualified themselves through their poor use of English. Some of it was terrible; I'll add a sample below.

"I would like to bid on your project. Am a native Dutch speaker living in the US since 1993, and working in the technical field for a long time now. My fee is $0.10 or Euro 0.06 per word, and accept Paypal or payment to a Dutch bank account. I am available per direct. Can you give me some background information on what kind of manual, and format you would like to receive it back in?" - I can virtually "hear" the strong Dutch accent in this reply.

Summary

xxxxxxxxxxbase does not appear to be scam per se, although membership seems too expensive in comparison to this site or to ProZ. Whether your personal data are safe with them remains to be seen. It is a good tool for outsourcers, less so for freelancers.

About half of the 'members' appear to be amateurs, dabblers who are trying to make some money on the side, or people who just never advanced to a professional level. The site doesn't make a clear enough distinction between the various quality levels the way ProZ does, for example.

The current spot market prices for translation are low. I could probably have achieved 0.09 euro per word for professional work from someone in the Netherlands or Belgium and 0.06 USD per word from a pro in the US. All offers from Asia were dirt cheap, but professionally not convincing.

I can see how this process can be extremely frustrating for an outsourcer, because it's very hard to determine quality from crap. As a professional freelancer with a somewhat higher price level you're better off doing your own marketing, becoming a member at your local professional organisation, and by sticking to the higher-end online communities.

Hope this was as much use to you as it was to me.

- Rien

[Edited at 2009-12-29 23:46 GMT]


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Jennifer Barnett  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 16:17
Dutch to English
+ ...
Great job! Jan 4, 2010

Thanks Marinus!

I really appreciate the time and effort you put into this 'research'. In particular, the resulting market research was very useful and encouraging, in spite of the female note (ouch! oh well, truth always hurts).

A prosperous 2010 to you!


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