3 Types of Translation Scams: Here’s What To Watch Out For

  • Time to read: 11 min.

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Ah, who doesn’t love translation scams?

Last night as I was doing some writing, I got a call on my cell phone.

A guy with an Indian accent (not too strong, but it was still there), told me that he had information that my PC anti-virus software was out of date and he needed to fix it for me.

I started laughing.

I asked him, “What makes you think I have a PC?”

(I was typing on my MacBook and haven’t owned a PC in about 15 years).

He insisted that he could see my PC over the network and he needed some information to fix it.

I laughed at him again, and told him he was stupid because I didn’t even own a PC.

I think my actual words were, “You’re so dumb.”

He then got angry and hung up.

Translation Scammers Are Out There

If you think you haven’t dealt with a scammer in your lifetime, then you probably have been scammed at least once and didn’t know it.

Scammers are everywhere.

Even in the translation industry.

As a beginning translator, the sooner you recognize that, the better off you’ll be and the more protected you can become.

There are a million and one ways that you could potentially be screwed over as a translator.

The important thing here is to recognize that it happens and have a general idea of the types of information that would-be scammers are after.

Three Types of Translation Scams and How to Beat Them

Let’s take a look at three types of translation scams, how they work and what you can do to protect yourself.

Translation Scams - Resume Theft

Scam #1: Resume Stealing

Before I started translating, I never really understood the motive behind this one.

How it works is like this:

You post your resume online, either on your webpage, on a translation forum, or pass your resume to a scumbag translation agency.

Some nefarious dirtbag sees your resume, likes what’s in it, and then copies it.

He then changes your contact information to his own (while leaving your name) and then uses it to get translation work.

He’ll usually do a crappy job (since he doesn’t have enough credentials to write his own damn resume) and then you get screwed because your name and reputation as a translator is associated with garbage translation work.

The same thing happens when a bad translation agency steals your resume. The company will solicit work based on your resume, try to get paid while doing crappy translation work, and then screw you out of potential jobs down the road when your name is associated with bad work.

Either way, you get screwed.

What To Do About It

First of all, realize that this is a fairly common occurrence and that you need to be vigilant about it.

Don’t assume it’s not going to happen to you or that it won’t matter.

Second, understand that most scammers who engage in CV theft will keep everything except your email.


Because the email address is what they use to get paid.

The fake translator will put a fake email on your CV and then request to get paid through Paypal at that email address after they complete the translation job.

So, what to do?

If you put your information out there, you can’t stop a person from stealing it.

But you can make it easier for translation agencies and clients to spot when a fake CV with your resume comes across their desk.

One way to do that is to not provide your entire CV online.

Instead, post enough information for potential clients while giving them a legitimate means to get in touch with you so that they know you are who they say you are.

The excellent site www.translator-scammers.com has a great suggestion for this. Put your basic contact information in a PowerPoint presentation slide and save it as a PDF form. Be sure that it includes the following areas.

Area 1 – Your Picture

This might not seem very obvious. There are a lot of people who don’t like putting their picture online. But guess what? Pictures of yourself are important.

People relate more to articles, websites, and other media when there is a picture of a person. In addition, it proves you are a real person (or a real translator).

Plus, the most important part of putting your picture on your contact information is so the translation agency or client thinking about hiring you can do a visual verification that you are who you say you are.

They can call you up on Skype over a video call and see that you match your picture.

So get over your fear of people seeing what you look like and post your picture. This is your job so you have to treat it like it is. You can’t hide behind your keyboard forever if you want to make money.

Area 2 – Name and Language Combination

Pretty self-explanatory.

This is what people are going to see first. Put it out there.

I’d suggest you also put your language combination(s) (language pair) here so that a possible client can know right off the bat whether you fit her criteria or not in terms of language expertise.

Area 3 – Services Offered

Next, you should note what kind of work you do.

I’ve preached many times that translators that are only translators are going to have a tougher time making a go of translation as a full-time job.

You need to expand your skills.

Here’s where you let your clients know that not only are you a translator, but you can do all sorts of other language-related tasks that will make your client’s life a whole lot easier.

Area 4 – Areas of Specialization

This is really generic.

You don’t have to go into great detail.

Don’t put down the exact translations you’ve done.

Don’t write down the names of your clients or their phone number.

That is the kind of information that scammers are after. It’s too hard for them to come up with fake clients and fake translation jobs, so they want to copy down yours.

So don’t give that list to them.

Keep it to yourself and let your clients know that you’ll be happy to give them a list of previous clients upon request.

That’s not out of the ordinary and is something that most clients will understand completely.

Area 5 – Contact Information

OK, so this part is probably the most important because this is how a client is going to get a hold of you.

Don’t worry about putting your e-mail address out there.

If it’s part of a PDF, it’s much harder for website suckers to come along and put your email address on spam mailing lists.

Here are a couple of things to note:

  • Don’t use a free email address like Hotmail or Yahoo. Get a website and use that domain as your email address.
  • Make your contact information linkable to your accounts. It’s easier for clients to reach your pages if the links are already embedded.
  • If you don’t have a Skype account, get one. This is how your client will be able to speak to you face to face and know who you are.
  • You don’t need a link to every social media site you’re on. Stick with the ones that you use for your professional services.
  • You don’t need an account on every social media platform. Stick with what works (what gets you the most clients).

Area 6 – Notes

In this area at the bottom, you should put a note that says something to the effect:

“To keep my information out of the hands of would-be scammers, I have not included my entire bio. If you would like more information on my experience and what I can do for you, please contact me.”

Putting something like that down will let new clients know that a) you don’t want the client to get scammed and that b) you are a professional who wants the best for you and your client.

Scam #2: Over Payment

Translation Scam: Overpayment

The “overpayment for services” scams are not only used in the translation industry.

In fact, it is a very common scam that originated with the Nigerian scams of the 1990s and probably even before that.

Here’s how it works in the translation world:

A client hires you to do a translation job.

You do it and send it back.

The client sends you a check for more than the quoted price of the translation job.

You deposit the check.

The client then emails you, claiming that it was a mistake, there was an error, or makes some other type of excuse for the overpayment.

The client then asks you to send the difference back to him, usually through Western Union or some other similar method.

You send back the difference and wait for the check you deposited to clear.

It never does.

The check was fraudulent to begin with.

And now you’re not only out of the time you wasted on the translation, but also out how much you sent back to the client.

Plus, there’s a chance that you could be faced with some legal repercussions for trying to deposit a fraudulent check.

Oh, yeah, this can also happen with Paypal, so be careful.

No bueno.

What To Do About It

First of all, never accept a check from anybody for payment.

I don’t care what their sad story is about why they can’t pay you another way.

Your client wants a job done? Get a real payment method like a wire transfer, like SWIFT. (Stay away from money orders.)

If you really feel like you need to get paid by a check, never accept an overpayment. If a business overpays you and asks for money back, tell them you will pay them when the check clears.

At least that way you’ll only be out the time you spent translating and not be out any money.

Next, watch out for the signs of a client who has no interest in paying you.

Warning Sign #1: The client agrees on the price without negotiation.

If a potential client agrees to a price without even a little negotiation, you should be careful. A client that has no intention of paying you could care less how much you are going to charge.

See how that works?

Warning Sign #2: The client offers to pay the full amount up front.

The client will “pay” you up front and then cancel the project and ask you to send a portion of the payment back.

No client I’ve ever worked with was willing to pay me the entire amount for work I hadn’t yet done.

Warning Sign #3: The proposal sounds and looks fishy.

Bad grammar and bad syntax are telltale signs of scammers.

Also, if you are emailed seemingly out of the blue about a translation job, things could not be quite what they seem.

Finally, if your gut tells you something isn’t quite right, then it probably isn’t.

Scam #3 – Pay to Work

Translation scam: Pay to work

Again, this scam isn’t limited to translators but can happen to them.

Here’s how this translation scam works:

You get contacted about what seems like a cool job offer overseas.

You apply and get chosen for the job.

The company is really excited to have you come aboard but before you do, it needs you to send some money to help pay for a “processing fee” or some other type of fee.

That’s a sure sign it’s a scam.

No legitimate company is going to hire freelancers and then ask them to pay money over the internet (or anywhere else) before starting that job.

This works the same way for certification.

A supposed translation company might say that you have to become certified by their process before you can do work for them.

And…. that certification is going to cost money.

Yeah, stay away from that.

What To Do About It

First of all, never spend money for a job.

Don’t pay a company to become certified. Don’t spend money on a company that requires a specific tool to do their translation work.

Don’t ever spend money for a supposed job overseas offering translation services.

If you think something isn’t right, it probably isn’t and is likely a translation scam.

Whenever possible, speak to someone in person over the phone about any opportunity or translation job.

It’s best if you can do a video call so that you can see the other person.

And trust your gut. Your online reputation is worth it.


These are just three of the most common scams that target real translators, no matter if you’re a full-time translator or a part-time translator making the transition to full-time.

There are other types of scams out there, but if you watch out for these three, you will be in good shape.

The best way to protect yourself from these kinds of translation scammers is to be aware of them and to listen to that inner voice you have I mentioned earlier.

If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

FAQ – Translation Scams

Do scams happen to certified translators?

Yes, scams can happen to anyone, even certified and professional translators. The best way to protect yourself is to be aware of the most common scams and to always be aware.

What are some other types of translation scams?

Some other types of translation scams include fake certification, a fake online presence, job postings that require you to pay a fee, a website that doesn’t look professional, a weird e-mail from a client, a client sending you a fake check, and scammers claiming that you have to use a specific tool without reason.

What can I do if I think I’ve been scammed?

If you think you’ve been scammed, the best thing to do is to get in touch your local police department and file a report. Try to identify the scammer and get as much information as you can. This will help the police department to investigate and hopefully catch the person who scammed you.

How can translators do their due diligence to avoid being scammed?

There are a few things translators can do to avoid being scammed. First, be aware of the most common scams. Second, be skeptical of any job that requires you to spend money on a fee or any opportunity that seems too good to be true. Third, don’t ignore warning signs. Finally, if you have questions about a particular business or new client, reach out to another professional translator to get their opinion.

Are translation portals such as Gengo, ProZ, and UpWork scams?

No, these portals are not scams. They are legitimate companies that create a place for freelancers to connect with a real person end client for professional translation jobs.

Are there scam translation agencies?

Yes, there are scam translation agencies. These scammers create job ads that require a fee to apply or they will require you to use a specific tool without reason. They may also try to get you to pay for certification or training in language pairs that aren’t even yours