Translation might not seem like a ripe industry for scams and confidence tricks, but we’re affected just like everybody else.
You might think that we’re well past the age when people are routinely taken in by scams on the Internet – especially people assumed to be worldly, like translation workers. After all, we’re folks who speak other languages, have travelled to other countries and who know other cultures well enough to intelligently assess text documents when translating them. We’re also composed of a lot of self-starters and entrepreneurs who have started our own online businesses, which means we work with banks and electronic communications all the time. Surely of everyone in the world, the professional translation services workers would be immune to scams?
Sadly, it’s not so. The problem, as always, is the lure of profits: A scam that’s calibrated properly can get even the smartest and most experienced people to throw caution to the wind in hopes of a big score. I thought I’d discuss some of the scams I know of, and some basic best practices for avoiding them even if you don’t necessarily recognise them.
The Miscalculated Check
This really happened a few years ago: A bunch of my colleagues were emailed out of the blue and asked to quote on a dream job: Interpreting for an Arab Sheik as he went on a shopping spree in London. The job detailed ten days of living with the Sheik and his entourage and helping him shop. A dream job indeed! Those who responded with quotes were all sent checks of about double the amount, and were told this was a miscalculation due to changing exchange rates – they could just keep the extra. Then a few days later the Sheik had to cancel his trip, and politely requested a refund, but told the translators to keep 15% for their trouble. Those who did as asked were shocked when the check finally bounced (it can take 2-3 weeks for a check of that size to clear) – and they were on the hook for the missing money. The lesson? Always wait for the check to clear.
The Free Sample
Another popular scam I’m amazed people fall for is the free sample: You’re contacted about a huge job that will pay very well. You’re excited. You’ve never heard of the agency but the email seems legitimate. They tell you they’re recruiting for a huge project and are looking for the best of the best – and so they need you to translate this short sample as part of your ‘application.’
Those that do never hear from the agency again – they’ve ‛recruited’ a hundred translators, who each did 1/100th of the necessary work, and all the ‘free samples’ comprise the completed project, and no one, including you, gets paid. The lesson? Never work for free, not even a little bit.
No matter how experienced you are, you can fall for a scam. Psychology is involved, after all. All you can do is have your best practices – and stick to them.
Image courtesy kevinvisser.com