Category Scams

Protection against Identity Theft

In this post I list a variety of scams that are currently infesting the internet. Identity theft features prominently among these scams.

How can you protect your identity from being stolen?

The main defense is to make it as hard as possible for somebody to impersonate you. Of course, it’s never completely impossible to steal somebody’s identity, but if you make it very hard, then the scammers will likely look for another victim and leave your reputation intact.

Here are a few tips:

  • Never post details that are too personal online, for example, your precise date and place of birth, your social security number, and other personally identifying details that are not needed to conduct business.

    Of course, certain legislations require you to post your tax number online in your “Impressum”. I am talking about the equivalent of the Umsatzsteuer-ID, which is NOT your Steuernummer/tax ID/social security number. The former identifies your business, the latter identifies you as a person and can be used to impersonate you. Please check your local legislation in this matter and do not confuse the two numbers.

  • Get your own domain name and set up your email to run through your domain instead of using a free provider such as Gmail, Yahoo, etc.
    That way, it will become much harder for the scammers to impersonate you. They would have to hack your account to do so. If you use a free email account, a scammer can set up another account with a name very similar to yours and use that account to impersonate you. E. g. if your email account is, they could set up an account at and pretend to be you.
    And no, you wouldn’t have to have your own website to own a domain name and run an email account through that domain. Although having a website is always a good idea, even if it’s just one page with your name and contact information. Most hosting providers, including mine, have simple tools that you can use to build your own rudimentary website. You don’t have to be a graphic designer or a website wiz to set up a simple but good-looking page. And having a website hosted doesn’t break the bank these days either. Still, if you don’t want that, there are email-only options, for example also provided by my hosting provider.

  • Do not send out your resume or CV in plain text or Word format. Save it in PDF format instead and secure the document with a password.
    Every word processing program I know of has the option to “Save as PDF”. Plain text or Word is much easier to edit and tamper with than PDF, especially if the PDF is protected by a password against editing. Obviously, you don’t want to password-protect the file against viewing. I’ll explain in this post how to accomplish that with Adobe Acrobat, assuming that you have saved your document as a PDF file.

Password Protection for your CV/Resume with Adobe Acrobat or Word

A lot of online scams involving identity theft are hitting the industry these days. In many of these scams the victims’ CVs/resumes are stolen by the scammers and then used for their own criminal purposes.

In this post, I list some basic steps how to protect your own identity from being stolen. Below I’ll explain how to protect your resume/CV from being altered by malicious people with the help of Adobe Acrobat. The free Adobe Reader won’t work. If you do not own Adobe Acrobat, there are freeware programs out there that allow you to password-protect PDF files. I personally am using Acrobat, therefore I cannot comment on these programs.

If you wrote your CV/Resume in Microsoft Word and use the option to save it in PDF format, you can also encrypt the PDF file with a password. Below I show you how.

Adobe Acrobat

  1. Save your document as a PDF
    This is easily accomplished in most word processors by simply choosing the option “Save as” and then choosing Portable Document Format/PDF.

  2. Open your PDF file in Adobe Acrobat and click on File > Properties
    Go to the “Security” tab. Click on Security Method > Password Security
    Adobe Acrobat File Security

    Adobe Acrobat File Security

  3. Set up password protection for editing
    Obviously, you still want people to be able to view your document without password. You only want to protect the document against editing or copying and pasting the content. This is done with the following settings:

    • Check Encrypt all document contents
    • Uncheck Require a password to open the document
    • Check Restrict editing and printing of the document. Set Printing Allowed to None, Changes Allowed to None

    Adobe Acrobat File Security

    Adobe Acrobat File Security

  4. Enter the “Change Permissions Password” and click OK
    A popup window is displayed where you have to enter the same password again and click OK. Click OK again when the warning is displayed. Close the dialog with OK.

  5. Save the document with the changed permissions!

Microsoft Word (Windows)

  1. “File” > “Save as”
    Choose the option “Save as” and then choosing Portable Document Format/PDF, but do not hit “Save” yet.

  2. Click on “Options” before you hit “Save”
    A popup opens with various options to save the file. At the bottom, you will see the option to “Encrypt the document with a password. Choose this option and click OK.

  3. Password protection with MS Word

  4. Click “Save.”

Microsoft Word (Mac)

  1. Go to “File” > “Print”
    Unlike the Windows version, the Mac version has the option to encrypt files via the built-in Mac print functionality.

  2. Go to the bottom dropdown and select “Save as PDF”
    Save as PDF

  3. Select “Security Options” at the bottom on the next screen.

    A new popup will open that shows options to encrypt the PDF file with a password.
    PDF Security Options Mac

Now your CV/resume is password protected against changes and copy-paste operations.

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( 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.


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.