As cyber criminals are getting more sophisticated every year, freelance translators need to remain just as cautious in order to stay safe from financial, and other, risks.
In this article, let's take a look at some basic steps you can take to stay safe and protect your business.
Spam is a word that is used relatively broadly in today’s world, but the spam that is truly annoying is the automated junk that usually contains a potentially harmful link, and text that usually doesn’t make much sense. This sort of spam is usually completely automated and can be picked up pretty easily by email clients and other messaging services.
A scam, on the other hand, is a much more manual process for the sender. There are various scam types online, but the one translators will probably encounter most are called phishing scams – where the attacker pretends to be from a reputable company in order to attain personal or financial details. This type of message is much harder for email clients to filter out automatically, so it is up to the receiver to perform due diligence.
For example, a common phisher tactic is known as an overpayment scam. Those scams that are designed for translators do a convincing job once you've taken the initial bait. Those who show interest to the original job message can usually expect a document to translate, being promised payment once they sent their bank account details. Those who go on to translate that document (about 5000 words) will soon have the unfortunate discovery that they will not be paid for that work. In the final stages of this scam, you'll be warned of an accounting error which requires you to send back a partial refund. They even send a tracking number for a fake check they send through FedEx.
As you can see, the attackers take considerable strides to keep the con going once you've taken the initial steps. This is because they know each step a translator takes, it becomes harder to recognize the scam as they are now invested in the transaction. So how should translators spot early warning signs that can help prevent harmful or time-wasting outcomes?
A good first step before taking any job is to consult the ProZ.com Blue Board. If a record exists, you'll be able to see feedback from other translators.
If the sender claims to represent a real company, and claims to have a position like an HR Manager, that person should be sending from a company email. If they aren’t, and the rest of the message is void of the other items in this list, simply send a reply asking for them to send more details from a company email account. Usually, this is enough to break their flow, and you won’t hear from them again.
Is the message full of short sentences with bad English and other simple mistakes? Not a good sign, especially when combined with a yahoo or gmail account. Always trust your translator spidey senses when they start to tingle from easily avoidable linguistic mistakes.
If they claim to be an employee at a company with a title, but yet not be present on the employee or team section of the website, that is a problem. So you might do a Google search to find out more, but that brings us to number four…
If you search Google for “Name at Company LinkedIn” only to discover a best selling author or someone else who is famous, it’s doubtful they’re the sender of your message. In today’s world, most people who contact others as a representative of a company will be on LinkedIn with the name of their company and title. If they are not, this should raise an red flag.
If the simple tests above all come out negatively, most likely the message is not worth your time and you can simply delete it.
The above checklist should be enough to save you the wasted time of translating a bogus document and revealing sensitive information to someone who plans to use it maliciously.
Should you find yourself feeling uncertain after you already initiated a string of replies from someone, you might check the ProZ.com scam alert center, or post a message to the scam forum to see what others think. It’s always better to tread a little more closely on the side of playing it too safe.
How about your own experiences? Comment below about what types of scams you’ve received in the past, how you knew they were scams, or any thing else you think might be helpful to the overall translator community.