Risk management in translation: ProZ.com knowledge base for translators, translation companies, and others in the language industry 2

Every business type is exposed to risks influenced by numerous factors and the translation and interpretation business is no exception. Regardless of the type of activity involved, everyone either offering language services or looking for language service providers is exposed so several types of risks that should be acknowledged if a reliable and successful service provider-outsourcer relationship is desired.

With this in mind, ProZ.com has been creating content and developing new tools with the purpose of helping translators, translation companies, and others in the language industry to learn about the different risks involved in doing business online and how to prevent them.

One of these resources, and probably the most widely used by service providers when assessing risks, is the ProZ.com Blue Board. The Blue Board record is the complete, searchable database of records made up of feedback entries posted by language service providers in connection with outsourcers they have worked with. For service providers, the Blue Board record has proved to be a great tool for assessing the reliability of specific outsourcers before accepting a job offer from them. For outsourcers, being listed in the Blue Board record with a good number of positive entries from service providers represents a great marketing tool. Outsourcers with a good Blue Board record report a higher degree of trust and shortened project launch cycles among those service providers who reference the Blue Board. More information about using the Blue Board record is available here.

Another great source of information in connection with business risks in translation is the ProZ.com Wiki. The ProZ.com translation industry wiki is an ever-evolving collection of articles about relevant, industry related topics, written and updated regularly by translators themselves. In this wiki, there are several articles on risk management, addressed both to language professionals and to outsourcers. Risk management-related wiki articles include the following:

For more information about the ProZ.com industry wiki, visit this page.

A recently released scam alert center is another potentially valuable resource for those seeking to manage risk when it comes to false job offers and other scams. The Translator scam alert center is an area used to provide organized, concise information regarding false job offers or requests and other scams which may be aimed at or are affecting language professionals and outsourcers. Information provided in the center is based in part on reports made by ProZ.com members through the online support system and in the ProZ.com Scams forum, and ProZ.com members have the option of subscribing to receive useful news and alerts of new scams as they are detected. The scam alert center is available here.

Finally, ProZ.com also offers its members a free webinar on “Risk management for translators and interpreters” on a monthly basis. This training session enumerates and explains risk management procedures that translators and interpreters should follow as part of their everyday professional activities. The schedule for these webinars is available here.

Regardless of the number of years a service provider or an outsourcer has been in the translation industry, risks are everywhere when doing business. However, the above-listed resources and tools have been made available by ProZ.com to promote not just professional practices, but also clear and concise information on the steps that should be taken to avoid risks when participating in the language industry. If you have any questions about these tools and resources, or if you need assistance with using them, contact site staff through the support center.

Please share: translator who alerted colleagues about TransQuotation is target of false “scam alert” 10

TransQuotation is a website that acts as a translation job portal, with the option of paid membership to receive access to jobs. As far back as 2006, members of ProZ.com and of other legitimate translators’ portals have reported the unauthorized “lifting” and re-posting of jobs from their sites on TransQuotation, indicating that paid membership there is for access to work which has specifically been offered elsewhere. This re-posting of work without the knowledge or consent of the outsourcer can lead to confusion and hassle for both outsourcer and translator.

ProZ.com site staff have taken measures since this activity first came to light to protect the ProZ.com job system from this activity, and legal letters were issued, but not complied with.

The false scam alert on the main page, and the information shown when it is opened

The false scam alert on the main page, and the information shown when it is opened

Recently, a ProZ.com member posted on his own experience with TransQuotation as a member there and to warn colleagues. After his posts and an attempt to request a refund from the site, his photo and profile information have now been posted by TransQuotation on their homepage as a scam warning, stating that he has been “banned due to illegal activities”.

I would like to urge those who read this to share this information with networks of translation colleagues, to put the warning out and help others make an informed decision when considering membership at that site. Thank you!

Update: 09 April

Additions to the "scam alert" on the home page

Over the weekend the site appears to have updated the “scam alert”, as well as added an additional link/text to the home page regarding ProZ.com.

Translators be aware: an ongoing scam asks for help using real translators as the “senders” 23

Early this week an ongoing scam using the impersonation of real translators and the emulation of their emails as a point of contact was reported.

This scam appears to take the form of an email “sent” from the real translator to other translators, using the real translator’s name and possibly data to lend credit to the sender, such as links to the translator’s website, etc. The emails appear to the recipient to have been sent from the real translator, with the actual sender’s address (the scammer’s address) “masked” behind this in order to receive any replies.

I copy below the message which has been received by translators using this method:

Hope you get this on time, Am sorry I didn’t inform you about my trip to Spain for a program,I’m presently in Madrid and am having some difficulties here because i misplaced my wallet on my way to the hotel where my money and other valuable things were kept.I want you to assist me with a loan of (2,600 Euro = 3,300 Dollars) to sort-out my hotel bills and to get myself back home.

I have spoken to the embassy here but they are not responding to the matter effectively,I will appreciate whatever you can afford to assist me with,I’ll refund the money back to you as soon as i return,let me know if you can be of any help.I don’t have a phone where i can be reached.

Please let me know immediately if you can be of help to my situation.

The message itself is classically scam; it is the fact that it appears to be from a fellow translator, perhaps even someone you know or have had contact with before, which can disarm the unsuspecting. If you receive a message similar to the one above, or any email that appears out of the ordinary, from an apparent colleague, please proceed with care.

————–
At the same time, be aware that cases of  “email hijacking” can also lead to scam messages like this being sent to your own email contacts (one such case was brought to my attention this week). To protect your email account(s), follow these basic guidelines:

* Use a strong password for your account (consider a mixture of letters (upper and lower-case) and numbers or special characters which is longer than 8 characters.
* Do not use the same password for all of your online accounts.
* Try to avoid sharing your email address on the Internet (the profile email feature is designed to protect against this and avoid the necessity of publishing your address publicly in your profile, for example).
* Use and keep your anti-virus software up to date.
* Make sure your email program or provider has a spam filter, and use it, flagging emails which are spam that are not caught automatically by the filter.
* Never give out your password.

Protecting yourself from fraud: another recent example 8

Thanks to Neil Payne at Kwintessential for bringing this next case out, in which both translators and agency are affected when the scammer poses as a legitimate, existing company.  I reproduce here a version of the post originally made on Kwintessential’s blog (scroll down for the link to the original posting):

—————————————————————————————————————–

By very good fortune a translation scam using Kwintessential’s name and brand has been exposed by an eagle-eyed translator.

The email was sent to the translator, who shall be called Mr X, requesting information for a large project.

Dear Mr. X

As translation office on the west coast of the US, we are looking for freelance translators in languages: German, French and Spanish.
Our research for translators in the German language has brought up your name again and again. You have been highly recommended by some of our valued customers and colleagues.

We need to request information on your current rates, your fields of expertise (law, merchandising and advertisement needed), words per day translated also a time schedule of your availability for the months of March, April and May 2011.

The project we will be working on, enfolds a value of 80.000 words, was commissioned by a notable US American company.

We will need your documentation not later than March 01.2011.

Best regards,

[Contact information removed from this post]

Emails went back and forth between [the sender] and Mr X with the former potentially placing a large amount of work. It was by good fortune that Mr X was suspicious of the email due to 1) the email being a non-company address (xxxx@aim.com) and 2) the misspelling of Kwintessential. Out of prudency Mr X decided to reply and CC’d our USA office whose address was used in the signature. Our Manager in the USA immediately drew our attention to the matter.

It appears the scam works in the following manner: a translation agency wins a contract to carry out a translation job. In order to increase their profit margins they send emails to freelance translators requesting they take on the assignment. The poor translator naturally feels they are in good hands but will eventually come to realize they will never be paid. The scamming agency therefore makes a 100% mark-up. All the translator can do is come to the real Kwintessential who will obviously have no idea of what has happened.
It is extremely unfortunate that people feel they have to carry out their business without principles and ethics. It is these scammers that give us reputable agencies a bad name. On top of this they are taking advantage of the good will of translators who work extremely hard, are true professionals and do not deserve such treatment.

Thankfully Mr X was clever enough to work out the bad intentions of [the scammer]. We have written to [the scammer] but surprise surprise no reply.

Message of the story for translators is always check the credentials of the agency and ensure 100% they are the real deal.

—————————————————————————————————————–

See the original post at Intercultural Communication and Translation News

Protecting yourself from fraud: a recent example 5

I’d like to share a recent case of a fraudulent job, which may serve as complimentary information to Enrique’s post on scams earlier this month, and as an example of how important it is for translators to do their homework when entering into negotiations with a potential new client.

A job was posted on the site. The job itself met the requirements and rules for posting a job.

However, upon entering into communication with the poster of the job, at least two site members noticed certain aspects which sent up red flags for them, and they reported these through the support system. The causes of the suspicion included a free webmail address, a resistance to provide full contact details, and in one case “awarding” the job and emitting a PO only to then cancel not long afterward.

When this was reported through support, further investigation into the matter revealed that a case of potential credit card fraud was also present. In the end the job was removed, the posting profile was removed, and translators who had quoted on the job were contacted and warned to proceed with caution if they were in contact with the job poster.

First, this is a nice example of how a couple of alert members were able to help save colleagues some time and headache. Equally important, though, is the example of being vigilant when it comes to business decisions, in this case, “Should I choose to work with this person?”

Some job postings require vetting, and this vetting is done by site staff. However, a majority of the jobs posted do not require vetting (for example when the job poster has membership or has been “whitelisted” for having posted previous jobs which were in line with site rules, having a strong Blue Board record, etc.). Regardless of whether vetting is required or not, efforts are made to ensure that the jobs posted are legitimate and to protect ProZ.com members. However, this is not a replacement for thoroughly checking out a new client! Always be sure to do your homework when it comes to entering into a new working relationship with a client. This applies, of course, in general, not just on posted jobs, and not just on ProZ.com. Following the right procedures to protect yourself and your business can seem like it takes more time and hassle, but think of the time, hassle and money you can save by avoiding being on the receiving end of a scam or of non-payment.

If you aren’t practicing a strong risk management, please start doing so. And be sure to share what you know with fellow translators! In the case above, the key information in identifying the fraud was shared via the support system, allowing staff to then alert other members. Sharing scam and risk management information on ProZ.com and other sites for translators is a powerful way of protecting yourself and your colleagues. Knowledge, procedures and common sense are the best tools for keeping safe from this kind of threat.

Alejandro

Translator scams and how to protect yourself from them 20

Freelance translators should think of themselves as business people. As such, they should pay serious attention to risk management, including the actions needed to minimize the risk of being the victims of a scam.

Scams are everywhere and they are extremely varied. It is said that one in ten adults have fallen for a scam. Some of the victims are  poor and desperate, but others are educated and clever, and  believed themselves to be immune to this kind of plot.

Reports from ProZ.com members seem to indicate an increase in translation or translator-specific scams.

There are two broad categories of scammers that should be on a freelance translator’s radar screen: those who want a free translation, and those who want our money.

1 – Scammers who want to steal your translation

This kind of scam involves a “client” who will offer you a real translation assignment but is not planning to pay for it. Legitimate outsourcers who are having a bad time and are late in their payments are a real problem, but they do not fall into this category.

This kind of scam is harder to detect because the scammer is usually well-acquainted with the translation industry and can emulate the “look and feel” of a legitimate outsourcer.

There are two basic categories of translation-stealers:

  • scammers who make up a fake “agency” that will simply vanish the moment you deliver your job, and
  • scammers who falsely claim to represent a real and prestigious agency.

Scammers in the first category should be detectable through normal risk management procedures. Those in the second group are more dangerous because superficial risk control could validate that the outsourcer is trustworthy, but miss the fact that the person contacting you does not represent them.

Emails from new potential clients should be carefully scanned. A visit to the “about me” section of the real outsourcer will tell you what their email domain is, say for instance xxxx@good-agency.com. Be wary of agency emails based on a free email provider, for instance name.good-agency@gmail.com (it is OK for freelancers to operate with this kind of email but an agency doing so should trigger your alarms). Be also on the lookout for small variants in the email domains ( for instance xxxx@goodagency.com ) introduced to mimic the real outsourcer.

2 – Scammers who want to steal your money

We’ve all seen or heard of some of the more common, general scams: a notification that we’ve won the Spanish lottery, or an email from a person who requires our help in moving a small fortune outside their country, etc.

There is also a translator-specific kind of predator that is not interested in your translation, but who will offer you a fake job opportunity as a hook to take money from you.

Some classic examples of these which have hit the community more recently are:

  • a job offer where advance payment is offered, usually in the form of traveler’s or certified bank checks. The amount received by the translator turns out to be much more than the payment agreed upon and they are asked to cash the checks or money order and wire back the difference. The checks or money orders later turn out to be counterfeit or stolen.
  • a steady flow of work is offered, on the condition that the translator must acquire a certain tool (usually a CAT tool), and the scammer happens to offer that tool at a greatly reduced price. Of course once you pay, you never hear again from the “client” (or receive the tool).
  • A very convenient in-house position is offered in a different country, and some down payment is requested from the translator in order to temporarily cover a legal immigration requirement or relocation expense. Again, once you have paid you can forget about them.

These schemes usually come from people outside the industry, and there are telltale signs that should ring alarm bells in the head of savvy freelancers:

  • The language (frequently English) is uneducated and has typos and grammatical errors (note: poor English alone does not mean one is a scammer, of course!)
  • Real outsourcers tend to deliver straightforward messages (“we look for a translator in {language pair}, expert in {field}, for a job of xxx words to be delivered on {deadline}; please report availability and rate”). Fake outsourcers, on the other hand, tend to add lots of unnecessary details (“I need an interpreter for my wife and two kids who will be visiting your country for a week; they will be basically shopping and will move in a rented car. We will be there because I am senior manager of a Fortune 500 company and will be attending a conference.”)
  • They are not aware of your expertise, to the point of sometimes asking for “the language pair you are most comfortable working with”. Strange assignment where you can pick that!
  • Uncommon job descriptions such as widely varied and unrelated areas of expertise (“poetry, nuclear reactors and accounting”) or in-depth details on how the communications will be handled in the project (an important factor, but not at this point of the exchange).

In short, try some old-fashioned common sense: if someone you don’t know contacts you to ask for a payment now in order to get a huge reward tomorrow, hit the “Delete” button.

Basic risk management considerations

Risk-management is a comprehensive discipline that should be present in all your actions; in the case of scams, you should focus on the evaluation of people contacting you for the first time.

The better your risk management process, the less likely you are to find yourself having invested time, effort and money in work where no payment is forthcoming (or worse; in the case of the traveler’s checks scam mentioned above, victims also found themselves in an uncomfortable position legally, having cashed fraudulent or stolen checks).

You should be suspicious of people who contact you and:

  • offer you something for nothing. If it looks too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.
  • ask you to pay some expenses or to buy some tool in order to get access to a very convenient opportunity.
  • try to rush you into a decision

When contacted for the first time by a potential outsourcer who looks truly interested in your services, you should:

  • Get the full name, address and phone number of the company and name and position of the contact person.
  • Investigate the IP information in the incoming email (see the ProZ.com Wiki article Risk management: Email) to make sure the email comes from where the company is. Investigate discrepancies.
  • Find the company’s website, find their email domain and verify if the incoming email fits it.
  • Call the company at the number found on their web page and ask for the person who contacted you, to verify if the contact was legitimate.
  • Google for the contact’s and the company’s names. Many scams are reported in forums and this can help warn you.
  • Look for the company in ProZ.com’s Blue Board and other online risk management resources. Pay special attention to negative comments and to recent ones.
  • Make sure to get a purchase order before you start working.
  • The first job you do for a new client should be small. This is reasonable for both sides of the deal, as a new translator is also a risk for the outsourcer.

Don’t be afraid that these normal risk management precautions will offend the outsourcer and make you lose good opportunities. Professional outsourcers will recognize the actions of professional freelancers and are likely to respect you more for doing your homework.

What to do if contacted by a scammer? The best you can do when you detect or suspect a scam is to ignore the messages. Answering the message, even to insult them or try to outsmart them will at the very least let the villain know that your email address is active and all the more valuable for spamming.

Sharing your experiences in dedicated forums and other social media is also a way to help raise awareness among colleagues of this scourge.

Further reading and resources

The ProZ.com Wiki has a few articles which are meant to help out when it comes to detecting scams, and translator risk management in general. These can all be found in the category for risk management in the Wiki.

Be sure you are familiar with this information and incorporate what is useful to you as a professional into your risk management process.

Is there something missing from the risk management articles, a method you have used successfully? Help your colleagues out by adding it! All you have to do is click the “Edit” option for the article or the section of the article you wish to add to, enter the information and hit save.

ProZ.com also has a forum dedicated specifically to allowing translators to discuss and warn each other of new scams: http://www.proz.com/forum/946

Stay safe!

Enrique Cavalitto