Archives July 2013

Maria Brown and the Nigeria connection

The following (fake) message is currently making the rounds among reputable translators who are members of the American Translators Association (ATA).

I am Miss Maria Brown,I got your email from the website(www.atanet.org) that you are a translator.i need you to help me translate from (English–German) if u don’t mind.I would like to know your terms and how much it would cost for the article.i will be waiting for your reply.

Sincerely

Maria Brown

This is clearly a scam and/or phishing attempt. Examples of typical scams are, for example, given on the ATA website.

How can you tell it’s a scam?

  • The email was sent from a free account such as gmail, yahoo, etc.
    While this is not necessarily in itself an indication that the request is a scam/spam-email, it’s a strong indication in combination with the other signs below. I have, in fact, several good direct clients that write via gmail, but I know them from other sources, therefore I know that they are legitimate. Most of my other clients, however, write via their corporate accounts.

  • Despite the fact that Ms. Brown claims to have obtained my contact information via the ATA website, a proper salutation is missing and the email is sent to my email-address via bcc.
    As a rule, I don’t respond to general mass mailings or automatically decline, since mass mailings with quote requests to translators indicate that the client is more price- than quality-conscious. And I can’t, or rather won’t, compete with people from somewhere in the Sahara desert who barely speak the source and target languages and who charge about half a cent per word. You get what you pay for… There’s nothing wrong with obtaining quotes from several providers, but there is something very wrong with spamming dozens if not hundreds of providers with one swooping, impersonal mass-mailing. But I digress. In this case, in combination with the other indicators mentioned here, it’s clearly a spam/scam attempt.

  • The request is written in really, really bad English, despite the fact that the sender claims to have a source text in English and claims to have a name indicative of a native English speaker.
    This alone is reason enough to turn down the assignment, because even if the request is legitimate, I do not want to waste my time guessing what the source text may mean if the author is barely elementary proficient in the source language. In this case, it would be better for everybody involved to write the text in his/her native language and get the text translated from that language into the desired target language.

  • The request does not contain any contact information aside from a generic email address.
    This is in general a strong indicator that the email is a scam/phishing attempt. Everybody has an address and phone number and most people have a website these days. A name such as “Maria Brown” that is essentially un-Googleable because it’s too generic immediately raises red flags. If somebody really wants a translation, even if they’ve never bought a translation before, they give a name and address and possibly other contact information so that the provider can contact the translation buyer with the quote. A name and address can also be used to search for that buyer online and verify his/her existence. Of course, a scammer could randomly impersonate somebody else, but in this case Ms. “Maria Brown” didn’t even bother to do that.