Don’t look like a scammer

Don’t look like a scammer

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How to avoid making translators suspicious

On the face of it, there was nothing actually wrong with the e-mail.

“My name is John Smith*. In a few months’ I’m preparing to start an online translation business with a partner. We have obtained your details as an English translator and we’d like to know whether you’d be prepared to work with us in the future. Could you provide us with your CV and the rates you charge translation agencies to see whether we can organise this kind of cooperation?”

*Name changed

When I was just starting out I’d probably have jumped at such an offer. Now the first thing I do is look at the e-mail address. It was an Outlook one, the modern equivalent of Hotmail. The signature didn’t include any kind of website link. Googling the translator’s name revealed nothing at all. Alarm bells began to ring. I ignored the mail.

A few days later the same translator sent me another message, asking again whether I was interested in working with his new agency. This made me wonder whether he might, in fact, be genuine. After all, I had no actual evidence that he was a scammer or identity thief. And this made me think that perhaps some would-be agencies need guidance on how not to scare translators away. So here’s my checklist:

1. Write from an e-mail address that’s not obviously a free one, not even g-mail.

2. If you are an agency, use your company name, and logo if you have one.

3. Say where you are based, even if you don’t give the exact address.

4. Assuming you’re writing to someone you don’t know at all, say a bit about your agency. What do you specialise in? Languages? Subjects? If it’s a new agency what are your plans?

5. Include links to a website address or some kind of profile. If you haven’t got one, get one.

6. If you say you’ve obtained someone’s details, explain where.

Have you got any you’d add?

Of course some agencies might say that if they’re offering work they don’t need to go to so much trouble, and that not responding to a request for information is plain rude. But there are so many cheats, scammers and identity thieves out there that it pays to be wary. I’m not actually over-suspicious or against supplying my details, but I do need to have at least some indication that everything is above board, and I don’t think an agency should be surprised or offended if I want to check them out.

So I told John Smith all this, just in case he is genuine, because if he is maybe he’s wondering why he hasn’t received too many replies. That was some weeks ago now and I haven’t heard another word. I’ll keep you posted.




  1. Catharine Cellier-Smart

    I have a doubt I generally check out the e-mail’s IP address too. Some locations tend to set alarm bells ringing more than others.


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