Should you hire a translator that has a gmail email address? Do you really know who your translators are?

If you are a translator, or work for a translation company, you are quite aware that the industry is under heavy attack from scammers worldwide. Advance payment scams have been around for some time now, and quite a few unprepared folks have fallen for it.

There is another scam that is going around now, which project managers should be aware of.

First a note on emails. You can tell were a message originated for almost every email provider in the world, including free email services, such as yahoo.  If you are using Windows Mail, for instance, simply go to Properties, Details tab, and this will give you the routing of the message. Unless the message has been sent by a hacker or spammer, you can tell from the IP address where it came from. There are many internet sites that provide reliable free IP locator services.

However, gmail does not tell the IP address of origin of the message. In fact, it always points out to google’s California servers.

This would not be so serious, except that scammers are using that feature of gmail to send impressive translator resumes to translation companies, that can fool even the most seasoned translation industry pro.

I decided to do a test, for I receive at least 10 of such resumes daily, and the results were astounding.

I sent work to three translators who alleged to be German, living in Germany. There were no problems with deadlines, however, what follows should be cause of concern for translation managers.

The quality of the translations was subpar. I had to edit them, and there are indications that in fact, the “translators” used google translator do to the work.  The terminology was flawed and inconsistent, improper for U.S. use, and even the numbers of Court cases were incorrect. If I did not know German (and obviously English) to correct the documents (which incidentally, I knew what they said before hand) I would be in trouble.

Two of the translators returned messages using a common “Name”, although when the resumes came, they used their own names. When asked, they claimed to be a “team”. However, I found out that the silly sounding name they used in the reply actually was the name of a translation “company” in India.

The plot thickens.

When paypal payment was submitted to the first German translator  – one of the members of the “team”, paypal revealed the name of the account holder, which turned out to be an Arab name, not at all connected to the German names provided by the “team” translators.  In an internet search of that email, I found out that the gentleman in fact lives in Palestine. When asked about this, no further emails were sent by the “translator”.

By the way, believe it or not, paypal also does not identify where the person you are sending money to is based. Shame on them, they should, since they claim to be so security conscious and anti-scam.

The scammers are not very bright, too. The invoice sent by one of them, with a Berlin, Germany address, had Berlin misspelled as Berline, and the name of the country appeared as “German”, instead of Germany. Adding insult to injury, the invoice provides a telephone number…in China!

This smorgasbord of international intrigue continued with the translator who actually provided the best, yet far from perfect, rendering. In this case,  the translator initially provided a very impressive resume. However, once I got the translation back I found that the author of the translation that was returned was actually another “translator”. (It is always a good idea to check who is the author of a document in Word, it can also tell a lot about the origin of the document). It turns out this “author” has a proz profile, which says she is a German living in Morocco!!! Wait, there is more intrigue coming.   This author’s resume is exactly the same as the “translator” who alleged to have prepared my document on the first place. There are, of course, a few options. This is a real person who is using pseudonyms to get work all over the place, these two translators are also a “team” (highly unlikely), or this is all a scam, and the translators are not even German, perhaps of a different sex, and all they do is google it. Not surprisingly, this translator has not responded to an email asking for explanations…

There are some common threads to all these scammers. First, the resume email always comes through gmail, preventing you from identifying the origin of the email. It might say it came from hotmail, or yahoo on the heading but if you go to properties then you find out it was actually sent through gmail. Some resumes are sent in word, others are sent by pdf. If it is in word, you can tell who the author is. Also check Properties, Content. You will be surprised how many of these have words in Arabic, Hindi or Chinese, although the translator claims to be an European based in Europe, or a South American and there is no plausible reason for that text being there.

Another common feature is the lack of address and phone number in almost all of these resumes. However, some of them not only have address and phone number, but also a photograph of the “translator”! One translator with a very impressive resume went to the extent of claiming to be an ATA certified translator, when she is not. I checked.

The bottom line is this. In this day and age in which a person can have a New York phone number and live in Laos, where translators’ cafes and whatnot provide a platform for people claiming to be translators to offer cheap services, and where the mechanisms for receiving or paying for services do not identify the origin, all care must be taken.

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6 thoughts on “Should you hire a translator that has a gmail email address? Do you really know who your translators are?

  1. I am glad to read this, because I am a real German translator, holding two diplomas (Diplomübersetzer Uni Heidelberg) and LL.M. in Belgian law. But I ask for translation rates which allow me to live in Europe and not in Asia.

    Das hört sich ja fürchterlich an. Es zeigt, dass echte deutsche Übersetzer mit akademischer Ausbildung nicht durch billige Asiaten zu ersetzen sind. Ich habe zwei Universitätsdiplome (Diplomübersetzer, Uni Heidelberg und Jura, Uni Leuven) und wohne in Belgien, weil ich hier bei den Europäischen Institutionen arbeite. Allerdings verlange ich Preise, die mir das Leben in Europa ermöglichen.

    Viele Grüße
    Maria Loose, Diplomübersetzerin.

    Du findest mich auf LinkedIn und ProZ.

    • Thank you for that. I fell in the trap given that some scammers have been impersonating and using my CV.

  2. Yep, we get about 7 per day with a From address then Undisclosed-recipients and our email address as a BCC. When checking, the original email address is always gmail. i just bin them without reading them.

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