3 Types of Translation Scams and How to Fight Them

Last night as I was doing some writing, I got a call on my cell phone.

A guy with an Indian accent (not too strong, but it was still there), told me that he had information that my PC anti-virus software was out of date and he needed to fix it for me.

I started laughing.

I asked him, “What makes you think I have a PC?”

(I was typing on my MacBook and haven’t owned a PC in about 15 years).

He insisted that he could see my PC over the network and he needed some information to fix it.

I laughed at him again, and told him he was stupid because I didn’t even own a PC.

I think my actual words were, “You’re so dumb.”

He then got angry and hung up.

Scammers Are Out There

If you think you haven’t dealt with a scammer in your lifetime, then you probably have been scammed at least once and didn’t know it.

Scammers are everywhere.

Even in the translation industry.

As a beginning translator, the sooner your recognize that, the better off you’ll be and the more protected you can become.

There are a million and one ways that you could potentially be screwed over as a translator.

The important thing here is to recognize that it happens and have a general idea of the types of information that would-be scammers are after.

Four Types of Translation Scams
and What to do to Beat Them

Scam #1: Resume Stealing

Before I started translating, I never really understood the motive behind this one.

How it works is like this:

You post your resume online, either on your webpage, on a translation forum, or pass your resume to a scumbag translation agency.

Some nefarious dirtbag sees your resume, likes what’s in it and then copies it.

He then changes your contact information to his own (while leaving your name) and then uses it to get translation work.

He’ll usually do a crappy job (since he doesn’t have enough credentials do write his own damn resume) and then you get screwed because your name and reputation as a translator is associated with garbage translation work.

The same thing happens when a bad translation agency steals your resume. The company will solicit work based on your resume, try to get paid while doing crappy translation work, and then screw you out of potential jobs down the road when your name is associated with bad work.

Either way, you get screwed.

What To Do About It

First of all, realize that this is a fairly common occurrence and that you need to be vigilant about it.

Don’t assume it’s not going to happen to you or that it won’t matter.

Second, understand that most scammers who steal your CV or resume will keep everything except your email address.


Because the email address is what they use to get paid.

The fake translator will put a fake email address on your CV and then request to get paid through Paypal at that email address after they complete the translation job.

So, what to do?

If you put your information out there, you can’t really stop a person from stealing it.

But you can make it easier for translation agencies and clients to spot when a fake CV with your resume comes across their desk.

One way to do that is to not provide your entire CV online.

Instead, post enough information for potential clients while giving them a legitimate means to contact you so that they know you are who they say you are.

The excellent site www.translator-scammers.com has a great suggestion for this. Put your basic contact information in a PowerPoint presentation slide and save it as a PDF form. The form would look something like this:

Avoiding Translation Scams
Avoiding Translation Scams

Here are what the numbered areas represent:

Area 1 – Your Picture

This might not seem very obvious. There are a lot of people who don’t like putting their picture online. But guess what? Pictures of yourself are important.

People relate more to articles, websites, and other media when there is a picture of person.

Plus, the most important part of putting your picture on your contact information is so the translation agency or client thinking about hiring you can do a visual verification that you are who you say you are.

They can call you up on Skype over a video call and see that you match your picture.

So get over your fear of people seeing what you look like and post your picture. This is your job so you have to treat it like it is. You can’t hide behind your keyboard forever if you want to make money.

Area 2 – Name and Language Combination

Pretty self-explanatory.

This is what people are going to see first. Put it out there.

I’d suggest you also put your language combination(s) here so that a potential client can know right off the bat whether you fit her criteria or not in terms of language expertise.

Area 3 – Services Offered

Next, you should note what kind of work you do.

I’ve preached many times that translators that are only translators are going to have a tougher time making a go of translation as a full-time job.

You need to expand your skills.

Here’s where you let your clients know that not only are you a translator, but you can do all sorts of other language-related tasks that will make your client’s life a whole lot easier.

If you become your client’s one stop shop for all things language related, you’ve done something right.

Area 4 – Areas of Specialization

This is really generic.

Notice that I didn’t go into any detail.

I didn’t put down the exact translations I’ve done.

I didn’t write down the names of my clients.

I didn’t even write down where I went to school or anything at all really about where I learned my expertise.

That is the kind of information that scammers are after. It’s too hard for them to come up with fake clients and fake translation jobs, so they want to copy down yours.

So don’t give that list to them.

Keep it to yourself and let you clients know that you’ll be happy to give them a list of previous clients upon request.

That’s not out of the ordinary and is something that most clients will understand completely.

Area 5 – Contact Information

OK, so this part is probably the most important because this is how a client is going to get a hold of you.

Don’t worry about putting your email address out there.

If it’s part of a PDF, it’s much harder for site suckers to come along and put your email address on spam mailing lists.

Here’s a couple of things to note:

  • Don’t use a free email address like Hotmail or Yahoo. Get a website and use that domain as your email address.
  • Make your contact information linkable to your accounts. It’s easier for client’s to reach your pages if the links are already embedded.
  • If you don’t have a Skype account, get one. This is how your client will be able to speak to you face to face and know who you are.
  • You don’t need a link to every social media site you’re on. Stick with the ones that you use for your professional services.
  • You don’t need an account on every social media platform. Stick with what works (what gets you the most clients).

Area 6 – Notes

In this area at the bottom, you should put a note that says something to the effect:

“In order to keep my information out of the hands of would-be scammers, I have not included my entire bio. If you would like more information on my past experience and what I can do for you, please contact me.”

Putting something like that down will let client’s know that a) you don’t want the client to get scammed and that b) you are a professional who wants the best for you and your client.

Scam #2: Over Payment

These types of translation scams are not only used in the translation industry.

In fact, it is a very common scam that originated with the Nigerian scams of the 1990s and probably even before that.

Here’s how it works in the translation world:

A client hires you to do a translation job.

You do it and send it back.

The client sends you a check for more than the quoted price of the translation job.

You deposit the check.

The client then says that it was a mistake, claims there was an error, or makes some other type of excuse for the overpayment.

The client then asks you to send the difference back to him, usually through Western Union or some other similar method.

You send back the difference and wait for the check you deposited to clear.

It never does.

The check was fraudulent to begin with.

And now you’re not only out of the time you wasted on the translation, but also out however much you sent back to the client.

Plus, there’s a chance that you could be faced with some legal repercussions for trying to deposit a fraudulent check.

Oh, yeah, this can also happen with Paypal, so be careful.

No bueno.

What To Do About It

First of all, never accept a check from anybody for payment.

I don’t care what their sad story is about why they can’t pay you another way.

Your client wants a job done? Get a real payment method like a wire transfer, like SWIFT.

Payment methods

If you really feel like you need to get paid by a check, never accept an overpayment. If a company overpays you and asks for money back, tell them you will pay them when the check clears.

At least that way you’ll only be out time you spent translating and not be out any money.

Next, watch out for the signs of a client who has no interest in paying you.

Warning Sign #1: The client agrees on price without negotiation.

If a potential client agrees to a price without even a little negotiation, you should be careful. A client that has no intention of paying you could care less how much you are going to charge.

See how that works?

Warning Sign #2: The client offers to pay the full amount up front.

The client will “pay” you up front and then cancel the project and ask you to send a portion of the payment back.

No client I’ve every worked with was willing to pay me the entire amount for work I hadn’t yet done.

Warning Sign #3: Proposal sounds and looks fishy.

Bad grammar and bad syntax are telltale signs of scammers.

Also, if you are emailed seemingly out of the blue about a translation job, things could not be quite what they seem.

Finally, if your gut tells you something isn’t quite right, then it probably isn’t.

Scam #3 – Pay to Work

Again, this scam isn’t limited to translators but can happen to them.

Here’s how this translation scam works:

You get contacted about what seems like a cool job offer overseas.

You apply and get chosen for the job.

The company is really excited to have you come aboard but before you do, it needs you to send some money to help pay for a “processing fee” or some other type of fee.

That’s a sure sign it’s a scam.

No legitimate company is going to hire you and then ask you to pay money before starting that job.

This works the same way for certification.

A supposed translation company might say that you have to become certified by their process before you can do work for them.

And…. that certification is going to cost money.

Yeah, stay away from that.

What To Do About It

First of all, never pay for a job.

Don’t pay a company to become certified. Don’t pay a company that requires a specific tool to do their translation work.

Don’t ever pay for a  supposed job overseas.

If you think something isn’t right, it probably isn’t.

Whenever possible, speak to someone in person over the phone about any opportunity or translation job.

It’s best if you can do a video call so that you can see the other person.

And trust your gut.

6 thoughts on “3 Types of Translation Scams and How to Fight Them”

  1. Anonymous

    Eye opener, well written article. Thank you.

    1. That’s the goal! No more translators falling for these scams. They’re always evolving but usually have similar traits. Figure those out and you can spot 99% of them.

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