Every freelance translator needs to stay alert about potential clients who send an e-mail requesting their services. Sometimes it is not what it looks like, and most of the time the project may not show any warning signs or evidence of a scam. However, there is one thing we need to be sure of: scammers do exist and they are there whether it is to steal your translation or to turn your monetary life upside down.
I have had two experiences, which made me realize that there are at least two types of scammers out there.
1. The scammer wants to steal your translation
In 2010 a so-called “colleague” sent me an e-mail asking for help. He wanted to “split” a large IT translation project and he said that after seeing my translator´s profile at Proz.com he was sure I was the right professional to attend his needs. We discussed the project, the payment method and all other important details. I also did a standard background check (including checking his profile), and did not find anything wrong at that time. His e-mail signature had all of the information I needed: address, phone number, e-mail and his public online profile at Proz. When the project started I had all the support I needed and he was always there to answer my questions and concerns. The delivery date finally arrived and he sent me an e-mail with some invoice information and emphasized that the payment would be made within 30 days. As usual, I offered my services for future projects and made clear to him that I was available for any questions or concerns regarding the present job. It is hard to explain, but I had a weird feeling about this “colleague”. When it was only five days before the payment date, I sent him an e-mail just to make sure the payment would be made on time. He promptly replied “yes”, but when the pay day finally arrived I did not get paid. He also disappeared all the sudden. I did not get any reply to my e-mails for a week.
My next step was calling him. Guess what? The phone number showed in his signature does not exist! After that I started doing more research on Google and for my surprise I found some information about someone with the same name and address, but with a different e-mail. I decided to e-mail this person and found out that he was a victim of identity theft. As you can see, whoever this “colleague” was, he scammed two people. Actually he scammed more than two people because after one week I saw five testimonials, on his Blue Board profile on Proz, from other translators that did not get paid. I decided not to move forward with the investigation because the lawsuit costs would certainly be much higher than the payment I was expecting.
Today I always check all information given by the client, such as e-mail, website, phone number, blue board, public profiles and testimonials before accepting any job
Be aware of free e-mail accounts, such as yahoo, gmail, hotmail, etc.
2. The scammer wants to steal your identity or ruin your financial life
This is something a little bit easier to handle, as most of the times this type of scam does not require too much effort to identify. I received an e-mail from someone who wanted a presentation translated into many languages, including the ones I work with. After answering all my terms and conditions, I noticed that the “client” was not too much interested in my translation services. The client wanted to pay me in advance with a money order. I already knew that this situation was not right, but to make sure this was a real scam I sent the client my PO Box and waited for his “money orders” arrival. After getting the money orders by mail I noticed the amount was almost USD 4,000.00 (the costs for my services was around USD 300.00). I went to my bank and also called the money order company. The obvious happened: the money orders were false. Meanwhile I did not hear from this “client” since he sent the money order. I guess he was expecting me to cash that amount. I also found out that some colleagues got this same type of e-mail.
Avoid accepting money orders
Be suspicious of someone who wants to pay you in advance with money orders
Do not cash any money order before checking if they are real and valid.
Be suspicious of e-mails from potential clients that contain miraculous and amazing stories.
There may be other types of scammers, with different stories. Have you ever been scammed? Did you have a similar story? Share your experience with us by leaving a comment.
I also would like to share some links where you can find more information about scams, as well as how to proceed in case you got scammed.