Translation and Language Industry Observations

If you work for a translation agency or you are a localization manager in a company, chances are that you receive a lot of job applications via email from freelance translators. You may be getting several emails a day or dozens of emails each week. Unfortunately, most of the emails are from scammers who either steal the identity of legitimate translators or create a phony resume in order to scam your company.

What is identity theft?

Identify theft occurs when a person hijacks someone else’s CV and edits it with a different email address and other details. They also create a new email address that closely resembles the real person’s email address. They then send out the phony CV to potential employers, with the intention of getting real jobs and real payment. The scammers can then either scam a real professional translator to do the work, or deliver a machine translation. In any case, the scammer is up to no good and will probably cause damage to you and your company.

Why do translators engage in Spam?

The easiest thing to do is to delete all job applications from freelancers which arrive by email. Or to program your email app to send all such applications to the Spam folder. But if you do that you may be missing out on some good, legitimate translators who will bring value to your organization.

In general, spamming is not recommended practice and should be frowned upon. It also may be in violation of the law in certain countries. But in reality, spamming is something that many translators rely on from lack of choice. Freelance translators do not have the resources or budget to engage in SEO and digital marketing. They are too busy translating. The fortunate translators (and the very good ones), can rely on their steady clients and word-of-mouth to keep busy. But for most translators, and even some of the good ones, spamming is a cheap and easy way to get new clients. Unfortunately for them, the scammers and identify thieves ruin it for them.

What to do when you get an email application?

Here are some simple steps you can take to weed out the scammers.

1. Do a Google search on the email address

There is a good website called Translator Scammers. They update the website frequently and in many cases the first Google results will have the word scammers in it. When this happens, you know that the email you received is a scam.

2. Match the email address with the email in the CV

If you passed step 1 and the sender of the CV is not in the list of scammers, this does not mean the application you received is legitimate. Check the email address from which the CV came and compare it with the email address written in the CV. If the two emails are not the same, 99.99% chance it is a scam.

3. Check the online profile of the translator

OK so the job application passed steps 1 and 2. Are you all set? Well maybe not. Check the online profile of the applicant on one of the translator portals like Proz or TranslatorsCafe. Or on a social network like LinkedIn. Match the CV you received with the credentials on the online profile. If any of the information does not match, you have a scammer on your hands.

4. Check and verify certifications

Many translators list their certification credentials. For example, if the translator is a member of a translation association like the ATA or the JAT. If this is the case, go online to the association website and make sure that the applicant is indeed listed.

5. Check educational credentials

Translators are generally smart and educated people. But someone who graduated at the top of her/his class at Yale will probably not seek a career as a freelance translator. A Harvard MBA makes several hundred thousand dollars a year to start, so if someone applies for a translation job and says that they are a Harvard MBA-chances are that they are trying to scam you. Check the credentials and if you see something which is way over the top, chances are it is a scam.

6. Check for signs of blatant forgery

Many of the CVs you get from scammers look fishy from the start. If the email address is printed in a different font or color, chances are it is a forged CV. If the CV does not have an email address printed in it, it is 100% a forged CV sent by a scammer.

7. Check for patterns

Scammers work around the clock and send out thousands of emails. So it may happen that you get 2-3 emails at the same time. Scammers. Also, scammers do not get very creative and all of the emails that a certain scammer sends out looks the same. This will make it easy for you to detect the scammers.

8. Below market prices

Scammers tend to advertise ridiculously low prices in order to make their scam seem worthwhile. So if you get an email from a Swedish or Norwegian translator that offers translation services at US$0.05 a word, you can tell straight off that it is a scam.

9. Language Skills which are too good to be true

If you see a CV or an email which offers language pairs which seem unbelievable, it’s because it IS unbelievable. If you get an email with a subject line that reads Your Perfect Match for English-Japanese-Norwegian Tasks, it is almost certainly a scam. A translator who works in both Japanese and Norwegian is an extremely rare resource and most probably is extremely busy with ongoing work. This is not the kind of translator who will be sending you spam solicitations.

Real Life Example

Here is a real example of a scammer in action. We received an email from “Eivind Lilleskjaeret,” a Norwegian and Swedish translator. It came from a Gmail account.

We searched for the email of the person who sent the CV on Google and did not see it on the Scammers list. We opened the CV and right away saw something suspicious.

Notice how the email address is written in a different font. It becomes clear that this CV is forged and has stolen the identity of the real Eivind Lilleskjaeret who is a professional translator.

We then searched the Proz website and found the real Eivind’s profile on www.proz.com/profile/11082. It has the same profile picture as the fake email address, but looking closely at the online profile we can see that the real Eivind has a completely different email address. The CV we received was from a scammer who not only wants to cheat potential customers, but can also tarnish the reputation of Eivind who has worked hard to create a good name for herself. Sadly, there is little anyone can do to stop these criminals.

In Summary

Be very careful with applications that you receive via email from translators. Many of them are phony. If you get conned by a scammer, you will probably not get the result you are looking for.

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