The ‘Translator Scam’ phenomenon and how it affects Vendor Management

Category: Freelancing

By Petra Kis-Jakab, Vendor Manager

When you are looking for the perfect translator for a certain project type, there is a chance that you’ll get flooded by e-mails from suspicious applicants, generally known as scammers. These people steal the CVs of reputable translators and then pose as them, thus jeopardising the quality of your project or never even making the delivery in the end.

The Internet is their weapon, but you might be surprised to hear that it can be turned against them. How? It can be easier than you think. Because these “fake translators”, despite their apparent extensive knowledge of the subject and long experience in the industry, can never be found on translation forums or websites, such as translators cafe or Proz for example.

But what happens if they send their introduction message directly to your agency. As a vendor manager, you might be the first one they contact. Don’t panic – here are some basic tips on how to spot a scammer at work:

  1. Even though they claim to have an advanced education or a degree, their English seems poor. This doesn’t just mean typos (who doesn’t reread the application when applying for a job?) but non-native vocabulary and lots of grammatical mistakes. They hardly ever address their email, even with a „Dear Sir/Madam”, but rather just copy the introduction from the actual translator’s CV and then off they go.
  2. Most of the scammers copy their victim’s CVs verbatim, or even leave original data in by mistake. For example, we received a CV from an applicant who knows German (Simplified and Mandarin versions!), or another who left the contact details of the real translator in the CV. Be sure to view the document properties (especially the author), and don’t hesitate to use Googlemaps when checking the address in the CV. You might be surprised to find your translator “lives” at an Embassy building or a car repair shop!
  3. If you request further references or a personal chat via Skype (i.e. to check their identity), they are likely to refuse or give ridiculous excuses (“my camera is broken”).
  4. Ask them for a free test job. They will probably refuse that too or insist on submitting their “own” test, which they claim to have translated for someone else.
  5. Have they left in references or educational info in their CV? Feel free to contact the references and check whether such a school exists at all.

Depending on your mood, there are two things you can do in the end with such cases. You can either delete the scammer’s message immediately or, better, reply to them, stating that you are aware of their practice of stealing translators’ CVs and identities. You can also report it on special websites.

In any case, the most important thing to bear in mind is always to be circumspect and choose your vendors carefully. Rather than taking a chance with unknown translators, it can be wise to make use of the tried and tested resources of a professional translation service provider. You can then benefit from their know-how in selecting, testing and matching expert translators to your specific needs.


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