Scam Alert! Please read. It could happen to any of us.

January 17, 2012 § 7 Comments

Dear Colleagues,

A few weeks ago I received an estimate request through my website. The prospective client, Mr. Dan Robinson, wanted to know the cost of translating an article on “Homeschooling”.  As usual, I reviewed the document and provided the estimate.  My estimates always require a down payment unless the job request comes from an old client. The prospective client agreed.  About a week later this same individual contacted me by e-mail asking if I had received the retainer.  He explained that the translation was urgent, and he was concerned because I had explained that I would not start the translation before receiving payment.

Two days later he sent another e-mail telling me that the post office had confirmed that payment had been delivered to my business.  My records did not show this payment so I reviewed all recently arrived checks. Sure enough, among them, I found a check with no sender’s name for an exorbitant amount (over three times the total cost of this client’s translation) I contacted this client and asked him for amount, name and address information on the check he had sent to retain my services.  He gave me the exorbitant amount. I responded that the check was way off and that I needed a new check for the correct amount with the name and address of sender.  He immediately told me that he was being admitted to the hospital, and he did not have a way to get me that information. I told him that I would wait for someone to provide the required information and correct payment.

After a few minutes, he sent me an e-mail explaining that he was very sorry for the trouble he had caused me; that I did not have to wait to get paid. He proposed that I deposit the big check, and suggested I return the difference, minus a fee for my “trouble and expenses,” by Western-Union, to an address in Egypt.  This was the final red flag. Of course, I politely responded that our policy is to wait for the correct check, deposit it, and after it clears, we send the difference to the client by check, together with a payment receipt. I insisted that I needed a name and address.  That was it. I never heard from Mr. Robinson again.

Be careful, these individuals are operating from outside the U.S., they are using fake names that will not raise suspicion, and they contact translators through their websites and ask them to do jobs that seem legitimate like a homeschooling article in this case.  Has anybody else been approached by Mr. Robinson or one of his associates?

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§ 7 Responses to Scam Alert! Please read. It could happen to any of us.

  • giolester says:

    Here in Florida we have been bombarded with emails by Mr. Benjamin Cox. Our state translators and interpreters group – Association of Translators and Interpreters of Florida – did a piece on these scams. The article was published in our newsletter, Speaking Out! and included including information on how to fight back, consumer protection agencies and other resources.

    We need more awareness in this area. With the accessibility the internet affords these scam artists coupled with a strong willingness to trust based on years of doing online business without all this non-sense have made us freelancers very good targets. It is time we take stronger steps to protect ourselves and our colleagues.

    Thank you Tony for discussing this.

  • I receive a similar scam, different story. The check was writing by a local recognized business, so I call them and I found out they have been using their name to scam people and NOT to process the check.

    When I mentioned to my “client” he replied he has already sent me another check also way larger than what I received previously. The name on the check was from someone in California that has been dead for many years.

    I email back to the client telling him that I will report him to the Better Business Bureau and to the local and federal police for investigation if he try to contact me again since he was treating me to send him the difference right away.

    I did wasted my time translating the article he wanted to be translated, but I didn’t send him any money back.

    It seems the scam is international.

    Thank you for posting,

  • Nancy Walker says:

    I have been contacted twice for scams: 10 by a Nigerian, Bishop Hilo Tunji who said he wanted me to serve as an interpreter for a week for his wife who only spoke their language and Spanish. Same deal – big check over the amount of my bill, deposit in my account and send difference back to him NOT; the second scam was an offer to hire me to do a conference interpreting, same MOD as the first one. The second one actually sent me a $3000 check with the name of a construction company in Colorado. I called them and they told me that those checks were stolen and that the account does not exist. Be careful.. Know your client.

  • Shenyun Wu says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your story with us. It’ll be a warning for all of us. Good thing you have the policy of waiting for the correct check and amount!

  • These scams have been around and are not only targetted at translators. Friends of mine who work in the film industry, design and freelance writing have also received similar offers..the project and details vary, but the modus operandi is always the same! You get paid quickly and up front for more than you quoted and you are requested to wire the difference back to the ‘client’.
    Except that the checks are frauds…by the time the bank figures it out (which can take weeks) the deposit will be reversed and if you have already wired money to the ‘client’ you will be out of that amount!!
    If it sounds too good to be true, it is!! An unknown client who is willing to hire you and pay you immediately is suspicious….

  • I’ve encountered the same scam (exorbitant amount, Western Union, etc) on Craigslist, for goods sold. Didn’t know they reached to translation!!

  • Tiffany says:

    It’s hard to figure out who is who these days because the technology that assists us translators also posts greater risks. One thing I do with new customers is to wait until the 10% down payment is cleared on my account before I will begin work – I don’t do “chage back” on translation. I think translators can make things easier and less harmful by carefully checking any new clients come into your path.

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