Busting “Ghost” Translators

19 06 2015

Imagine that you need money, don’t care how you get it, and you conceive of a crime that you can execute without being seen or shot at. Not only that, the victim might possibly never realize they have been robbed, and even if they do, you will face no negative consequences.

This is the dirty dream job of CV scammers.

Ghost_TranslatorsIn the translation industry, Curricula Vitae (CVs) of legitimate freelance translators are lifted from translation industry websites and attached to made-up names and contact information with astonishing frequency these days. Global Language Service Providers (LSPs) like Prague-based Skrivanek Translation Services receive dozens of fake CVs daily, forcing them to spend a considerable amount of time sorting the good from the bad.

“Not all translation agencies dedicate the resources that we do to directly testing all of our translators before assigning them jobs,” says Michal Kufhaber, Skrivanek’s Global Production Manager. “Unfortunately, many choose translators based only on good CVs.”

The rock-bottom low rates that scammers frequently offer can be persuasive, especially when they’re accompanied by CVs testifying to valuable (sometimes incredible) experience. When one of the fakes slips past the filters and is hired, delivering an unusable translation doesn’t stop the scammer from demanding pay through a chain of connections that makes them hard to track down. And when the thief gets really lucky, payment is issued before the shoddy translation is seen for what it is.

There are some consistent clues that tip off the wary LSP. Illegitimate CVs often contain physical addresses that don’t exist. They always use email addresses with free servers like Gmail and Hotmail, and they don’t provide working phone numbers. The CV will often look cut and pasted, containing a variety of fonts, for instance. The recipient shows up as “undisclosed recipients,” meaning that the scammer is flooding the market in search of a nibble.

While scammers are still working the field, they have seriously riled their victim-base. Translators are an intelligent group who rely on their reputations and on long-distance connections to clients and work – they aren’t taking this crooked trend lightly. Individuals, forums and websites have dedicated themselves to the detection and public unveiling of the CV thieves. One example is the Translator Scammers Directory, which offers shared information from a collective of scam victims. Their slogan is, “They steal your CV, your Work and your Money … We make their lives a living hell.”

Their advice? Their website suggests publicly exposing the ghost translators in every way you can think of and creating filtering systems for your hiring procedures.* Experienced global LSPs often have well-established routines of doing these very things, as you can see for instance in Skrivanek’s thorough Recruitment Process for new translators.

So who are these CV thieves? Interestingly, according to Translator Scammers Directory, nearly all can be traced to Palestine, where one in six people in the West Bank and 1 in 2 of those in Gaza were unemployed at the end of 2014.** Small percentages of them are from Asian and Eastern European countries.

All of the victims are people with years of study and experience that these syndicates of desperate “ghosts” electronically snatch to generate income for themselves. In our global online village, where troubled neighborhoods share a border in cyberspace with your desktop, diligence and creative solutions are required to protect your assets.

J. McShulskis

*Check http://www.translators-scammers.com for useful tips, scammer lists, and extensive other information.
**Worldbank.org

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