For a while now, I've been receiving some rather odd applications for freelance work by e-mail. This prompted me to write a post about the do's and don'ts of applying for freelance work this way a little while back, which some readers will hopefully find of help for their own marketing activities. However, what I've now discovered is that most of the odd-looking applications were actually scams produced by people wanting to get assignments – and ultimately money – from gullible customers around the world.
How did I find that out? Well, simply by looking up some of the applicants' names on the Net. Many of the names that have been used seem a little strange and are actually fictitious, so it turns out. (Not all of them are, though, which makes investigation trickier.) The intriguing thing about applications of this kind is that they apparently contain lots of background information about the person that is true. Because it's been stolen from existing translators who once made their CVs available to the wrong readership by mistake!
A long directory of scammers who claim to be translators has been created by João Roque Dias, a Portuguese translator. Click here to access the page. It lists the name of the "applicant", the e-mail address they have used and the original translator whose personal details were stolen (the victims of identity theft, in other words). If you receive scam mails of this kind, but can't find the person's details on this list, then please contact the people now running the site [as of 15 Feb. 2014] and forward the messages to them so the data can be checked. Any new scammers found will then be added.
To find out more about this issue, which seems to be a big one affecting the translation industry (and many other fields as well), you might want to read the section that Proz.com has created on scammers and identity protection; click here to go to it.
There are also plenty of other sources of helpful information you can refer to, many of which are on the internet. Marta Stelmaszak, for example, has written a detailed blog post on how translators can protect the CVs they send out to prospective customers from abuse; click here to read her advice. (Among other things, she refers to an article on the BBC's website on what information you shouldn't put in a CV in the first place.)
One easy step you can take is to save your CV as a PDF file, which makes it harder for people to extract the information quickly (unless they know how). You can also write-protect the file and prevent any content from being copied by using a program like Adobe Acrobat®, say – pick the appropriate security settings before you generate the PDF file (this short video from Adobe will show you how).
If you haven't done so already, take a look at the CV you've prepared for new customers (and the personal details you've included in any internet profiles you've created on platforms such as Proz.com, Xing, LinkedIn or Facebook) and think about steps you could take to protect your own identity. This is something that's becoming increasingly necessary as the amount of networking and self-marketing we do via the internet is growing. It can be as easy as leaving out your date and place of birth and adding the words "Further details upon request" for anyone who is really interested in working with you.
And in addition to that, please think twice about sending detailed personal data to agencies en masse. Hand-pick the agencies you want to contact after checking out their websites and seeing if they are likely to be interested in receiving your application; the more you personalise your covering letter and match the requirements they specify on their website, the better your chances are of being accepted as a potential supplier of translations. By increasing the quality of the contacts you pick, you ought to find your applications become more effective and you can keep track of the agencies that have your personal details much more easily. Protect your identity – and your reputation as a translator.