Perspectives: Scammers in the translation industry

Daniel B. Harcz
Multilingual March 2017

There are various types of scammers active on an international level in the translation industry. This article aims to ring the alarm bell by directing attention toward scammers and describe the practice of the two most common types with the objective of warning fellow translation company owners and managers of this danger and possibly contributing to their ability to fend off scammer attacks in an efficient manner.

The first type of scammer (and this is the one that has been around for at least a decade) pretends to be a client. They insist on paying the service provider by check, and upon completion of the translation project, they send a check issued for a much larger amount than what would be due. When the check is already on its way to the translation company, the scammer informs the service provider that it has been issued for the incorrect amount by error, and requests urgent reimbursement. So the recipient of the check transfers the difference to the sender. However, the check turns out to be bad and doesn’t clear....

On the whole, it can be established that the people composing and submitting messages bearing at least two or three of the traits listed above have meager notions or absolutely no grasp at all of the way the translation industry actually works. They have probably never translated a single word for money, and they have never learned a foreign language at an advanced level. They are typically not even familiar with the basic mechanisms of the translation process, have no idea what words like proofreading mean, and are at odds with terms like target word, source word, CAT tools and other abbreviations frequently employed in the translation industry.

I even take the liberty of assuming that scammers who try to make ends meet by deceiving translation agencies have no respectable profession at all. It certainly appears to be difficult to apprehend them and bring them to justice to account for their misdeeds.

If the query is clunky enough, it is unlikely the scammer will be hired. However, a small percentage of swindlers are quite good at pretending to be real translators. They not only steal CVs from professionals but cover letters and application messages, too. The only difference consists in the one added number or extra letter in the email address from which they approach their prospective clients/victims....