• Caroline Goby

Swindle Me This

When I received an email through a trusted translation website from a potential client a month ago, I was very excited. It was a large document which meant a good payday in the near future. However, my first exchange with the customer was strange. There was no negotiation of the price and trust me - clients always want to negotiate if possible. Then, when discussing payment, there was talk of paying with a check in the mail instead of by wire transfer to my bank account or through PayPal. That was honestly THE dead giveaway. The check turned out to be fraudulent of course and was kept by the bank to be shredded. I decided that two could play this game and didn't tell the "client" about the check. I asked for the name of the organization and the address and in return I was given an address that when looked up on Google Maps Street View was a rundown home in the middle of nowhere Florida and told that the organization is an NGO. I said thank you and asked for the official name and in turn was asked what I meant by "official name".....???? Needless to say, this kind of going back and forth carried on for some time and I was finally told the name of a random NGO whose REAL address didn't match the one I was given. My policy in life across the board is honesty, so I felt a bit uncomfortable pretending to be duped. But by this time, I only had two goals in mind: show this person what it's like to have someone waste your valuable time and gather as much info as I can in order to turn it in to the authorities. Oh and by the way, the check was twice as much as the amount agreed upon and I was told to SEND BACK the extra to a "sponsor" in some other state through Money Gram. (But of course they couldn't send ME a Money Gram.) They really thought I was an idiot.

After a week or two of making them think I was actually going to send them the money, I finally snapped when they started having an attitude about how long it was taking me to send the money. I said some philosophical things about reaping what you sow, rebuking their wayward life of deceit and exhorting them to give it up after which I told them I reported them to the authorities (which I did on econsumer.gov) and that they would probably be in touch with the "client" and the "sponsors" shortly. Sigh. It was exhausting but I'm thankful I was cautious about it - "Mas vale prevenir que curar" "Meglio prevenire che curare" "Mieux vaut prévenir que guérir" "Better safe than sorry". If you are a translator reading this, here is the best thing to do in this situation: if they want to pay by check, it has to be in the full amount or 70% up front before you even start on the project and you take it to the bank immediately to put it in your account.

In my experience, a down payment is a sign of good faith between the two parties and it can never hurt to ask for it. I personally only omit asking for a down payment if it is someone I have met in person and have a good rapport with, or if it's through a reliable website that has good methods of settling non-payment issues. To be honest, I learned this lesson of caution when it comes to payment years ago when I first started freelance translating right out of college. But that's a story for another blog post...

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