Scams – how not to get taken in

Today I received an email from Manami Imaoka, an OSTI member:

Today I received an email exactly like the one you were discussing the other day on the OSTI members listserv. Now I know for sure not to respond to this one:) It would be very useful for you to publish the advice you gave the OSTI members!

An OSTI member

As a membership benefit, OSTI members participate in a listserv where we warn them about industry scams, let them know about job postings, inform them about high priority issues, and of course invite them to participate in the democratic process of choosing leadership. All members can send messages to the whole group and start discussions about any topic. It is unmoderated.

Here is an expansion of the email OSTI members received:

Your names are on the OSTI list, which means people can find them. Therefore, you may get emails like this…

“I got your e-mail address from an online forum that you are an excellent translator, I guess you would have work for them. I will like you to translate an article for me, but first i need to know your language combination because it was not stated. I will be very happy if you can reply my e-mail ASAP.”

Some signs of an email you don’t want to bother to answer:

* They don’t have any idea who you are: they don’t even know your language combination. This was a total shot in the dark. Don’t even bother to respond!
* They are sent to “undisclosed recipients”. Don’t feel special. You aren’t. This email went out to many people! They aren’t even telling you what forum they found your name on!
* There are subtle inconsistencies in the email. In this email, the username for the email is, and the signer is Mrs. Allison. Real people know their own names.
* It comes from a generic email address (yahoo, gmail, etc.). These are free, and most reputable companies use real domain names. Because of these scams, it is wise for professionals to establish a domain name so they aren’t viewed in this light. However, the generic email address is just one of many tell-tale signs.
* Sometimes these come with a street address. Google map it. I have sometimes found that it’s a warehouse in the middle of the desert, or a hair salon in London.
* They don’t bother to mention what language the document will be translated into, what they need it for, etc.

This document provides a useful guide to ask questions about a translation project. Members of the ASTM Subcommittee on Translation, where I am Technical Contact, have even found it helpful!

Click on this link to read a an ATA Savvy Newcomer post on scams.

The Savvy Newcomer is a blog we started a couple of years ago, about the same time we launched OSTI. We’ve been running articles on things we think will help people launch in the interpreting and translation professions (probably leaning more to the translation side). Check it out. Do a search in the search tab for the topic you need, and if you can’t find it, let me know. I’ll make sure we post something on it!

Join OSTI, and you can participate in this lively forum as well. And thanks, Manami, for suggesting that we share this with the public!

Helen Eby
OSTI President and
Team Leader of The Savvy Newcomer