Latest Translation Scam – How to Avoid Being Scammed!

Latest Translation Scam – How to Avoid Being Scammed!

Translation scammers are getting more creative day by day.

The latest scam, which (perhaps not surprisingly) seems to have its origins in Nigeria, is aimed at translation companies and works as follows (based on an actual case):

  • A respectable sounding client with an English name, using a U.S. based browser email, asks for a quotation on a lengthy text (in this example, 265 pages). In this case, the original text was to be translated from English to Arabic. An online check on the client’s name (recommended) produces no results.
Email from fake client who goes by the name of “Thomas Grey”.
  • After receiving a quotation, the “client” asks for a further quotation to translate the text into a rare African language. (In this case, Oromo, spoken in some areas of Kenya, Ethiopia and Nigeria).
  • At just the right moment, a translator with an Islamic name applies for freelance work. His area of expertise? African languages, including the rare language in question. What a great coincidence!
Scam translator who goes by the name of Aminu Mohammed
  • Samples are obtained and the client is very happy with the samples, claims they are “perfect”.
  • The translation company requests a down payment to proceed.
  • The client sends “proof of payment” from a U.S. bank (naturally). The payment confirmation letter has a typo, and is post-dated to around the time of the first text delivery. Hmmm…
Fraudulent Payment Confirmation from Chase Bank
  • The translator of the rare language also requests an upfront payment, of a sizable amount, in order to proceed with the work. He highlights his high principles as a “devoted Muslim”…

Fake translator relying on his role as a “devoted Muslim”. 

  • The rest can be left to the reader’s imagination… in an ideal situation (for the scammers) the translation company, waiting for the large American transfer to clear, pays a sizable chunk to the fake translator (naturally, the “client’s” transfer is fake too) and the “client” and “translator” ride happily into the sunset, leaving the translation company to face the music (and to pay the genuine translator who by now will have completed  a sizable chunk of the Arabic text). In this case, the “translator” and the “client” may have been the same individual operating different emails.

In this instance, though seemingly brilliant, the scammers left too many clues:

  • Typo in the payment confirmation
  • Payment is post dated
  • No online presence for “client”
  • “Client” refused to respond to requests to share his telephone number
  • US based “client” used terms such as “alright” instead of “ok”  (British-educated Nigerians tend to use terms such as “alright”).
  • The providential appearance of the translator just at the right time – the saying goes “if something looks too good to be true, it probably is!”
  • A Google search on the project text showed it was borrowed from a 2010 academic article, freely available online!

How to avoid being scammed:

  1. Verify both client and translator
  2. Verify all payments. Ensure the client sends a payment confirmation directly from their bank. Where possible, request non-reversible payment methods.
  3. Verify the text by searching online
  4. Do not proceed with big projects unless the down payment has cleared fully.
  5. If something looks too good to be true – it probably is!
  6. Trust your gut feel – if something doesn’t “feel” right, don’t hesitate to investigate and (diplomatically) verify information.