How to identify and avoid translation scammers

How to identify and avoid translation scammers

It is an unfortunate truth that translation scammers abound. Many of us receive dozens of emails per week that qualify as translation scams… some more convincing than others. How do we sort through the myriad of requests to determine which ones are legitimate and which are worth nothing more than a quick “Delete”?

Although much has been written on this topic, many freelancers in the translation and interpreting industry, often newcomers, struggle to find the answers and resources needed to distinguish a real request from a fake one. I’ve included links to similar articles at the end of this post with a wealth of information. I would recommend perusing them at your leisure.

This post will focus specifically on scammers claiming to be clients, who target freelance translators, and on how to avoid becoming their victims. I’ve compiled a non-exhaustive list of red flags to keep an eye out for (ordered by the level of concern they should generate), strategies to avoid scams, information about how the scams work, and resources to help translators make sure a request is genuine.

While I am under no illusion that translation scammers will ever disappear entirely, I do feel that the more we share about our common experiences and the more we warn others about the common frauds out there, the more likely we are to avoid them. Please feel free to use this list as you sort through your inbox, share the article with friends and colleagues, and contribute your own suggestions and experiences in the comments section.

Red Flags

What should I look for in emails from new or potential clients?

  • There are grammatical or spelling errors in the email.

Sometimes clients will make the occasional error in an email, but this is your first tip that something may be amiss.

  • The email has come from a free email address (@yahoo.com, @gmail.com, etc.)

Beware of potential clients claiming to offer work from a company while their email address is from a free account. Legitimate individuals may contact you from these domains but businesses will not.

  • The email or website contains no additional contact information for the potential client (address, phone number, website, etc.)

Real clients want you to be able to get in touch with them; if they have no company affiliation listed or additional information in their signature line, this is a red flag.

  • The name given for the potential client and their email address do not match (e.g. signature line says John Doe and email address is jimmy_buffett@yahoo.com).

Ask yourself, “Is there any reason John would be emailing me from Jimmy’s email account?” If not, be wary of the sender.

  • The potential client offered to send you money before you deliver the translation, or overpaid you and has asked for money back.

Overpayment by fake check is one of the most common email scams; never send money back unless you are 100% certain that the money you received is legitimate.

  • The email is in regard to a specific project but asks what language pairs you work in or does not specify your language combination.

If your potential client really found you because they have work for you, then they will already know what language pair they need!

Strategies to Avoid Being Scammed

When you smell a rat, here’s where to start…

  • Search for information about the person online.

Do they have a website? Are they listed on any scammer directories? Can you find a phone number to call and verify that this is a real person sitting behind a real desk in a real office?

  • See if the document for translation can be found online.

If you copy and paste a sentence from the source text into your browser, are you able to find the entire document online? If so, the potential client may have just taken a document from the internet and are claiming to need it translated.

  • Ask for references.

References aren’t just for contractors—ask if the client has worked with any other translators and check with them to be sure the client is authentic (and check the authenticity of the translator, too).

  • Ask for a down payment or non-refundable deposit.

Especially for larger projects, request that the client pay you a percentage upfront (e.g. 25–50%), via a verified payment method (bank transfer, Western Union, Venmo, PayPal, etc.). If they balk at the idea, suggest using something like https://www.escrow.com/ to ensure that no one pays or gets paid before the job is completed.

  • Verify the authenticity of any payments you have received.

If you received a check as pre-payment for the job, take it to your bank and ask the banker to verify its authenticity. If you received payment via PayPal, go to http://www.paypal.com (don’t click the link in the email!) and make sure the money is listed as received in your account (if you aren’t sure, call PayPal’s customer service line).

The Scam

Scammers are getting better and better at targeting their victims, but most schemes involve one of a few different tactics involving a supposed overpayment and a request of immediate refund to the client.

  • Client asks for your bank account information to make a payment.

Note that some legitimate clients do request banking information like an account number and routing number in order to make transfers or ACH payments; they will usually send you a PDF form to complete and may even password protect it. Scammers may also ask for your banking information, so be sure to go through the verification strategies listed above and check the resources listed below before deciding whether to provide this information.

  • Client sends a fake PayPal/Venmo email to get you to provide your login details on a fake page.

Scammers can be very creative; you may receive a “payment” via an online source that notifies you by email of new funds. Beware of PayPal or Venmo emails that contain spelling errors or old/incorrect logos—some scammers will create very convincing emails claiming to be from these platforms but that actually link to a fake site that will ask for your login details so the scammers can log in using your credentials.

  • Client overpays by check and asks you to send some of the money back.

Overpayments are always a red flag; some scammers will send a check that is convincing enough that your bank will allow you to deposit it, and you may even see the money deposit after a few days (there are regulations as to how long a bank can put a hold on your funds before making them available in your account). What you can’t see behind the scenes is that the bank is still working to verify the authenticity of your check, and if it is not real (the payee bank does not exist, has no account with the check’s number, or does not have sufficient funds in said account to pay out the money), your bank will eventually reject the check, take the money back out of your account, and likely charge you a fee of some kind.

  • Client overpays by PayPal or other online payment platform and asks you to send some of the money back.

Fake emails stating that you have received PayPal funds may also be used to make you think you have received funds while no money has actually been deposited to your account; but how do they actually get the money? In these last two schemes, after they have “paid” you but before you have realized the money wasn’t real, the scammer will tell you something to the following effect:

“I accidentally sent more money than I intended to.”

“I have decided not to go through with part of the project.”

“My company/client has changed its mind and we will be cancelling the project.”

Then, the client will ask you to return the money—usually via a quick and verified payment method so they can make off with the funds before you realize it’s a scam. Usually they will ask you to return the money via a different method than the one by which they “paid” you—cash deposit to their bank account or wire transfer, for example. A few days or weeks later you will find out the payment was rejected or never went through in the first place, and the client will have disappeared with your funds.

Resources to help verify potential clients

Payment Practices
Proz.com Blue Board
Proz.Com Translator Scam Alert Reports
Translator-scammers.com
Proz.com Scam Forum
World Payment Practices Forum
Translation Agency Payment Forum
Translation Agencies Business Practices Forum (LinkedIn)

Other articles about avoiding scams

Translation Scams: Tips for Avoiding Them and Protecting Your Identity by Carola Berger
Red Flags for Avoiding Scams, reblogged from The ATA Chronicle
Resources to Help Ensure Translation Payment by Ted Wozniak (includes links to additional mailing lists)
Due Diligence Links by Paula Gordon (includes links to additional resources and a list of questions to ask yourself)
Scammers, I Got Your Number by Audrey Irias

And a funny story to lighten the mood…

Translation Scammers Beware by Una Dimitrijevic

Image souce: Pixabay

The Savvy Newcomer Year in Review – 2017

The year 2017 has been another great one for The Savvy Newcomer, and we are glad you have been a part of it. We thought it would be nice to wrap up this year with a recap of what we have been up to with the blog in 2017 and what we are looking forward to in 2018. We hope you enjoy it!

As it has been since the blog’s inception in 2013, The Savvy Newcomer’s mission is to be “ATA’s blog for newbies to translation and interpreting.” To fulfill this mission, we have continued to post once weekly, generally with new content from our own team or guest authors, but also reblogs from other sources. By the end of 2017, we will have posted over 200 individual blog posts on The Savvy Newcomer during our four-plus years together!

Our blog team is comprised of eight members from a variety of countries and backgrounds, and we meet by conference call once per month to discuss upcoming topics and make plans for the blog. Over the years, we have seen the team grow from the founding members (Helen, Daniela, and Jamie) to include additional and vital support (Catherine, David, and Bianca). In 2017, we added two new members to the team: Emily Safrin and Flavia Lima. Both of them have made huge contributions to our efforts and they already feel like family!

The Savvy Newcomer continues to be active on social media, with a strong following on both Facebook and Twitter. We encourage reader interaction on these platforms and have enjoyed sharing the content of other individuals and institutions through these media as well. Our readership on both platforms is impressive, surpassing 700 Facebook followers and 1,400 Twitter followers during 2017.

In 2016, The Savvy Newcomer became part of ATA’s Business Practices Committee, further encouraging us to achieve our goals of providing relevant and useful content and resources to newcomers to the professions of translation and interpreting. We provide reports to the committee as needed, and ATA uses this committee to support us as we seek new and interesting ways to share with you, our readers.

 

We have had many excellent posts over the years, some of them reaching thousands of individual page views. The three most popular articles posted on The Savvy Newcomer during 2017 were:

  1. Study Resources for Translation Certification
  2. Questions to Ask Before You Accept a Translation Project
  3. Why Pairing up Is a Good Idea, Especially for Freelance Translators!

Readers, you are a diverse bunch! Our blog audience in 2017 came from an astounding 163 different countries. The top three largest audiences for our blog were in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada.

Just as you may set resolutions for the New Year, we at The Savvy Newcomer have a few goals of our own for 2018:

  • Manage a better balance of translation- and interpreting-related posts
  • Come up with creative new ways to engage readers and encourage audience interaction
  • Reach even more followers who are interested in T&I around the world
  • Offer fun new ways for first-time attendees to connect at the annual ATA conference
  • Continue to post once a week and meet once a month

It’s your turn, readers! What do you want to see from The Savvy Newcomer in 2018? Do you have any questions we can answer in a blog post? Or perhaps you have a guest post in mind that you would like to write for us. Have you set any resolutions? We would love to hear them!

Image source: Pixabay

So you want to be a Freelance Translator (or Interpreter): Services and Specialization

This post is the third (read the first post here and the second post here) in a series of five posts written in response to questions we at The Savvy Newcomer have received, sometimes from people within the translation world, but also from bilingual friends and family who are interested in translation and interpreting (T&I). Our hope is that this series will serve as a guide for people who are considering a career in T&I and want to know where to begin.

What services should I offer?

Many translators provide more than just translation services. Since many are self-employed, it can be helpful to offer related services in order to differentiate yourself, serve customers’ needs, and bring in extra income.

Here are some of the many ancillary services translators may offer:

  • Bilingual editing: Reviewing another translator’s work by comparing the source and target texts for accuracy and consistency, and checking the target text itself for precision, structure, and flow.
  • Monolingual editing: Reviewing a non-translated document for all of the above-mentioned characteristics.
  • Transcreation: Translation of a text that involves recreating part or all of the document for use in the target language and culture.
  • Proofreading: Reviewing a monolingual or translated document for proper writing conventions, including grammar, spelling, sentence structure, agreement, and punctuation.
  • Transcription: Creating a written transcript from a spoken audio or video file (may be mono- or multilingual).
  • Interpreting: Orally rendering communication from one language to another (https://najit.org/resources/the-profession/).
  • Content/copywriting: Writing text (creating new content) for advertising or marketing purposes.
  • Localization: Adapting a product or content to a specific locale or market (https://www.gala-global.org/industry/intro-language-industry/what-localization).
  • Copyediting: Reviewing raw text for issues such as errors and ambiguities to prepare it for publication in print or online (https://www.sfep.org.uk/about/faqs/what-is-copy-editing/.
  • DTP (Desktop Publishing): Formatting and adjusting the layout of a document for publication in print or online.

When deciding what services to offer, you may want to consider tasks you have performed in the past—perhaps a previous employer had you interpret, or colleagues and friends have asked you to provide summary translations of newspaper articles or other documents. You may have been the go-to proofreader for your office or done some desktop publishing as a side job or for other purposes. Along with your past experience, think about particular strengths you may have that could pair with certain services: If you are a good creative writer, then transcreation may be up your alley. If you have a keen eye for mechanical errors and grammar, perhaps you are well suited to proofreading and copyediting services. If you prefer to work with the spoken word, then interpreting is more likely to be for you.

You may also want to consider your current software and hardware setup when deciding what services to offer. Translators often use an array of software tools to assist them as they work. These will be addressed at length in a later post, but translators often use CAT (computer-assisted translation) tools, editors may use computerized proofreading assistants, and transcribers often use audio editing software and transcription applications to aid in their work.

What should I specialize in?

The first question to ask yourself when it comes to specialization is, “What area do I know a lot about?” Many translators focus on just one or a limited number of areas of expertise rather than attempting to be a jack-of-all-trades. Having and stating specialization(s) gives your clients confidence that you are knowledgeable about the material you are translating, and it can even help you command higher rates as a result.

Specializing can be as simple as having had a previous career in the legal field or volunteering as a candy striper in the hospital for many years. Some ways to develop your specializations or continue to learn about them include attending university classes (online or in person), following journals on the subject matter, and reading in order to develop specialized glossaries.

A few common specializations in the translation industry include:

  • Medical (e.g., clinical trials)
  • Legal (e.g., partnership agreements)
  • Business (e.g., sales proposals)
  • Marketing (e.g., brochures)
  • Software (e.g., computer programs)
  • Tourism/hospitality (e.g., guidebooks)

When you are just getting started, you can choose to indicate your preferred subject areas by listing specializations on your business card, résumé, and/or LinkedIn profile, or you can choose to work with more general topics until you have gained more experience and feel comfortable stating a specialization.

Readers, do you have any other services or specializations you offer that weren’t mentioned here, or tips on how to decide when you’re just getting started? We’d love to hear them!

Image source: Pixabay

Using SlideShare to Embed PowerPoints in a Website

SlideShare is a slide hosting service owned by LinkedIn that allows users to upload presentations, either privately or publicly, to a website. This tool can be used for a variety of applications, including to upload presentations of useful resources for sharing with the public or a select audience, as well as to share sales and advertising information with your target audience. For instance, we used SlideShare to embed the Buddies Welcome Newbies introductory slideshow into this Savvy Newcomer post in 2016.

To get started using SlideShare, go to https://www.slideshare.net/ and click “Login” in the top right corner. Since SlideShare is owned by LinkedIn, you can log in using your LinkedIn or Facebook credentials. I recommend using your LinkedIn login so you can easily and quickly upload slideshows to your LinkedIn profile and share useful resources with your connections!

Once you have logged in, click the orange “Upload” button in the top right corner of the screen. You can drag and drop or navigate to upload an existing PowerPoint, PDF, OpenOffice Presentation, Word document, or other supported file. Now that you have selected a file, be sure to give it an appropriate title, description, and category so that people will be able to discern the purpose and contents of your file. You can choose to make the upload public or private, depending on how you want to use it.

Public files can be found and browsed by anyone with a SlideShare account, while private files can only be viewed by individuals with the private link and password you send out after the slideshow is published. If you want to share the slideshow with select others, be sure to choose “Private – anyone with link” from the dropdown menu at this stage. You can also add tags, which are keywords that are relevant to the contents of your upload or to the people who will be viewing it. This will allow others to find your upload more easily in search results. Next, click “Publish.”

Now that your document has been published, all you need to do is embed it in your desired webpage. You can share slideshows and other documents by embedding SlideShare files in blog articles, your own company website, a LinkedIn post, and more. To embed the file into another site, click the “Share” button under the SlideShare player while on your newly uploaded file page. You will see a variety of sharing options, including email, embedding, WordPress shortcode, and a direct link. To embed the file in a webpage, select all of the text in brackets (<>) under the Embed header and “Copy” it.

Now, go to the code page for the webpage on which you would like to embed the slideshow and “Paste” this text. Once you have saved or updated the code, you should see the slideshow appear on the site as an embedded file. You will be able to see how many slides there are, click through each slide, and share the slideshow with other users (if the privacy settings allow). You may have to work within the settings of your website or blog’s layout and design menu to adjust the size of the slideshow on the page. If the site on which you want to embed the file is a WordPress site or blog, you can use the “WordPress” code option instead of the “Embed” code.

To change whether your slideshow is public or private, go back to the page that shows your file in SlideShare. By clicking “Privacy Settings” under the slideshow player, you can adjust the visibility of the upload and choose whether or not you want users to be able to download your file.

SlideShare offers a multitude of ideas on how to use their tool via slideshows, provided by both users and SlideShare itself. We encourage you to take a look and see how this service may be useful for your blogging, social media, advertising, or file-sharing needs!

Readers, how have you used SlideShare or how do you hope to use it in the future? We would love to hear your ideas!

Header image: Pixabay

So you want to be a Freelance Translator (or Interpreter): Starting from Scratch

This post is the second (read the first post here) in a series of five posts written in response to questions we at The Savvy Newcomer have received, sometimes from people within the translation world, but also from bilingual friends and family who are interested in translation and interpreting (T&I). Our hope is that this series will serve as a guide for people who are considering a career in T&I and want to know where to begin.

Starting your freelance translation business from scratch can be a daunting task. Below are a few of the most fundamental questions to ask yourself as you begin to think about building your business.

Do I need further training to become a translator?

There is no one “right” way to become a translator, but most professionals feel it is important to have at least one of the following two qualifications: a) experience (could be from a previous job or volunteer position), or b) training (from an academic program in translation or at least education in another language).

If you are interested in becoming a translator but do not have much experience, taking a course may be a good place to begin. You can find translation courses at many major colleges and universities, some of which are offered online. If you enjoy the first course and want to pursue a career in translation, it may be of benefit to you to meet other translators and get a feel for what it takes to become one. You can even ask them how they got started. If you decide academic training is the best route for you, checking out the schools we have featured in guest posts here at The Savvy Newcomer may be a good place to start.

Academic programs in translation and interpreting range from certificates to PhD’s, and may be either online or in person. No gold standard exists for individuals entering the translation field, and some translators start off with a few years of experience from other sources and then get a degree in the field later on in their careers. It just depends on your situation! Getting a degree or certificate in translation can help to develop your skills, lend credibility to your resume, and give you a network of colleagues and classmates to support you as you get started with your career.

How can I get experience with translation?

There are several ways to get experience when you know another language but have no experience. One is to work with another translator who has at least a few years of work under his or her belt. If you know someone who is willing to work with you and edit your work, this is a great way to learn the ins and outs of translating without worrying about making a big mistake! You could act as a sort of intern or apprentice for this translator, who would provide you feedback and ensure the translation is accurate and ready for delivery.

Another way to get experience as a translator is to volunteer. Some charities and non-profit organizations may have small and low-risk documents that need to be translated (for instance, letters from a sponsored child to his or her sponsor, or brief and informal messages to connections in other countries). It can be hard for these organizations to afford translation of this kind, so they will often seek volunteer translators to help out. Groups like The Rosetta Foundation work to connect organizations with willing translators. Another volunteer opportunity exists in conjunction with the well-known TED Talks, which recruits volunteer translators to subtitle videos into other languages to help inspiration and ideas spread across borders.

How do I find clients when I am ready?

Once you have some experience or training in translation, you are ready to begin looking for clients. For the most part, translators who are just getting started will work with translation agencies that receive requests from a variety of different companies and source each project to the right translator for the job. You may eventually work directly with companies that need your services, but this involves a different level of client education and collaboration. To begin working with translation agencies, consider some of the following techniques for finding clients:

  • Cold emails/form submissions: Find the websites of different translation agencies and search for instructions on submitting your resume to be considered for freelance work. Each company will probably have different instructions—some may ask you to submit a form online, while others will provide an email address where you can send your resume and cover letter.
  • Directories: After you join professional associations such as ATA, NAJIT, or local associations (see a list of local associations here: http://www.atanet.org/chaptersandgroups/index.php), you can usually list your services on the association’s membership directory. This is an opportunity for clients to find you and contact you about your services.
  • Conferences: Many associations hold annual conferences attended by both freelancers and translation agencies (for instance, ATA is holding its 58th Annual Conference at the end of October 2017: www.atanet.org/conf/2017). Oftentimes you can meet agency representatives at booths or networking events and make a personal connection that could lead to freelance work in the future.
  • Contacts: One of the most common ways to find clients is by word of mouth. Translators may refer other translators for work they think suits them, so networking with contacts of all kinds (colleagues, classmates, friends, and family) can help spread the word about your services and let people know you are open for business.

We hope you have learned something new from this post about starting from scratch! Stay tuned for the next article in this series, Services and Specialization.