I was asked a few months ago to write a post on translator scammers by a respected colleague of mine. At first I did not think that it related to the overall theme of my blog, but after some thought, I realized that not only did it apply, but it was also an important topic to talk about for the continued success of my fellow translators and interpreters. This is not the first time this issue has been brought up in the industry, but for some, it bears repeating. So let me start with a little anecdote.
As Director of Operations and being in charge of hiring in my regular full-time position, I write in every job posting, “Please send résumés in PDF format. Only résumés in PDF format will be considered.” and I have been criticized a few times by co-workers because they do not see it as a necessity. My reasoning behind asking for this is in two parts: first, I want to see if an applicant can read and follow directions, and secondly, I want the applicant to understand that I, as a prospective employer, respect their work history and that I expect the same respect from them for the same. So how does the second point apply? Editable documents such as text files and word documents are called that for a reason – they are editable. If someone were to receive a CV or résumé and did not want to make it look as if the applicant were as qualified as they actually are, it would be very easy for the recipient to modify the applicant’s résumé and make modifications. While PDF documents can still be modified, the person carrying out these modifications would have a harder time doing so than with Word documents.
The same thing applies to translator and interpreter résumés and CVs, perhaps even more so. Contracted positions are at a higher risk because CVs are not simply sent out every couple of years to get a salaried position. CVs are our ambassadors for our brand and draw people in to contract us out for work. We have spent years going to school and years building a name for ourselves in the field but there are people who are actively seeking out CVs and resumes that are editable, changing the contact information, nothing else, and submitting the fraudulent CV as their own to get work. The unsuspicious agency receives the fraudulent CV, checks out the legitimate translator’s credentials and uses the contact information found on the CV to hire the thief; the thief will delay delivery of the translation and if s/he delivers at all, the translation will almost always be poor in quality due to free, public machine translator use without post-editing. The scammed project or quality manager may then contact the actual provider regarding issues and the translator would then be completely unaware that the scam was going on, then having to deal with the headache of trying to repair a damaged reputation.
Similarly, these scammers can pose as translation companies or independent project managers and prey on unsuspecting freelance translators. They will set up jobs and contract freelancers out for projects, overpay by check and then ask the freelancer to send a check with the difference. Meanwhile, the original check to the freelancer is bounced, the freelancer gets charged a bounce fee, and the check to the thief with the difference gets cashed. What ends up happening is that the freelancer gets taken for a ride and penalized twice for performing a legitimate service.
Combating these con-men
First and foremost, I believe in being pro-active in all matters dealing with fraud. The harder you make it for someone to steal your credentials the less-likely someone will be to do so. In my honest opinion, it is worth the time to make stealing your credentials harder when preparing your CV than the damage caused by a ruined reputation
- Stop sending out your CV in editable document format.
I cannot stress this enough. If I were not receiving any more CVs in Word document format, I would not need to be writing this post. I would not even recommend password protecting the word document and sending out a read-only word file, the text can still be copied and pasted. I do not even recommend simply saving a word document as a PDF and sending the resulting PDF; again, the content can still be copied and pasted into a different document.
For a medium level of security, save your CV as a PDF, export to jpeg files, and reassemble the images into a single PDF (this will also make the file size smaller). Next, go into password encryption and modify Document Restriction Settings; not allowing text access or content extraction from the document and only allowing low-res printing. This level of security prevents the reader from using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to lift text from the flat image, prevents them from copying the image via snapshot, and prevents others from exporting the images to other file formats.
For a higher level of security, use the document open settings to restrict the opening of the PDF in addition to the medium level document restrictions using a different password than the medium level password. This will enable you to control who can and cannot open your CV and still control what they can do once they have opened the document. If you chose this higher security route, I will leave it up to you as to how you would like people to get the password to be able to open the document. A simple suggestion might be to have someone who would like to see your CV submit a request on your personal website asking for the password. Get creative, but always be aware of who you are giving viewing access to.
- Translators, cross-reference contact information with information found on the actual company’s website. There are also a number of references on LinkedIn and translator fora that you can go to see if anyone else has written about a company that has contacted you for services. And head over to http://www.translator-scammers.com/ and do a quick search to see if someone who contacted you is on the scammer list.
- Translation companies, when looking over resumes, check out the person’s contact information on their resume as well as cross-reference it on their profiles on translatorscafe, proz, professional association directories, etc. (when all else fails, I would trust the professional association directory than any other source). If something does not quite add up, the translator might appreciate it if you sent them a message letting them know about the contact information discrepancy.
- You can also always run a check on the sender’s IP address and verify that the message was sent from the translator or company’s documented location.
It all just boils down to how pro-active you are. You do not want to be in a situation where you have a translation company on your back accusing you of providing poor translations, asking you to fix the errors when you did not have any prior contact with them to begin with. Or wasting time and energy hounding a translation company for payment when the company never really existed in the first place. If you would like another person’s point of view on this issue, please check out Carola Berger’s article in the October 2014 ATA Chronicle and check out http://www.translator-scammers.com/, it has a list of aliases, e-mail addresses and listed offenses of these translation identity thieves. As always, my opinions should never be the definitive command on what to do and what not to do, but hopefully if you were not aware that this was an issue before, now you know that there is a risk and something to be aware of.