Hi you, folks!
First of all, let me introduce myself to you: my name’s Lidia and I’m a fresh newcomer in the world of freelance translation. Gosh, actually not so ‘fresh’, I’m quite aged and I’m dealing with languages and translations since a couple of decades, but … I’m losing the thread, so let’s stay on track!
As any good newbie, I need to gain a lot of experience, especially as regards marketing strategies and business risks, if I want to survive in this jungle and I’m still quite naive on certain issues, in spite of my elderly age. Scams, deceivers and non-payers are my personal nightmare since ages: I almost gave up my profession due to an unexpected non-payer. Since I started working as freelancer I’ve been trying to implement any possible measure to prevent any fraud against me and my work – of course, as far as my scarce experience allows. And in spite of all my efforts, I’ve been caught in a trap.
My first post is about this experience. The first and surely not the last.
I’m a paying member of Proz.com and I sometimes respond to calls for bids on this portal, most of the times without result. In march I receive an alert regarding a post for a short translation job with technical contents required by a peer. This translator, a certain Marta Guidi from the surroundings of Florence, also mentions the possibility of establishing a collaboration for future assignments of technical texts. Response in a few hours, deadline within a couple of days. I respond. The outsourcer answers to my quote requiring my written willingness to take on the assignment. I cannot believe it, a job through Proz! First step to take: check the LWA record in the BlueBoard – for the few individuals who still ignore it, the BlueBoard is a big database of outsourcers with their relevant rating. I pay for it, let’s have a look! Holy mackerel, no record on this person! OK, next step: check the IP of the mail: well, lastly a good news, the location corresponds to the address of the outsourcer. The bad news is that it is a yahoo account, but I have an anonymous account myself, like any other individual unfurnished with a personal website and relevant @domainname address. Lastly, I check the phone number and it is registered in the name of Franca Guidi (mother?), the address corresponding to that in my hands. I ruminate a bit on the matter, can I accept, do I have to refuse? After all, the text is quite short, the post sounds quite reliable, the person quite friendly, so I make up my mind and accept the job.
Obviously I make all my best to impress my new client, so I finish far before the deadline. I make up the expense record (I’m still an occasional translator, so I’ve got no VAT ID) , attach it to the translated file and send it to the customer asking her to provide all necessary information to prepare the payment receipt. Silence. No return receipt. I send her an e-mail asking her to acknowledge receipt of the file and if the translation is fine. A short message informs me that she has received the whole thing and that it’s OK. After that … nothing, zero, blank silence!
Lost any track of her. I send reminders, threatening mails, nothing. Eventually, I call her. The first time, an anonymous answering machine, a female voice. I leave my message requiring a prompt contact. I wait a couple of days before attempting a second time. Again the answerphone: I embitter the tone of my voice and say that I’m urging a contact with Marta Guidi to clarify her position regarding the translation she has commissioned and not paid. Someone switches the machine off and replies, a man. “You are dialing a wrong number, there’s no Marta Guidi here – he sais rudely. “Dear Sir, the number is correct, let me explain what’s happening, your number is probably being used by a scammer for illegal purposes …” I reply. “No, no, I don’t want to know, I haven’t signed anything, to me this question is closed!” his reply. And he hangs up.
It’s clear, he’s the scammer. His touchy and rude behaviour says it all. And he is damn right. He did not sign anything, I’ve nothing but a bunch of e-mails from an anonymous account. I’m helpless against him …
I’m a complete idiot, nay, I’m the idiot of the global village (paraphrasing the title of an Italian satirical TV program)!
All I can do is reporting the scam. So here I am, on Proz, Translator’s Café, Facebook, LinkedIn, my blog, and wherever possible. I won’t give up.
The lesson I’ve learned – and my 2 cents on the issue: when approaching new clients, always keep your eyes wide open and don’t be afraid to ask for a formal purchase order, letter of assignment or whatsoever document clearly stating name and identity of the purchaser, its contact details, tax information, clear details of the supply and the relevant price, deadline and terms of supply. This approach might sound rude, lacking touch, but it will prove valuable and will help to establish a relationship of mutual trust with your customer. A reliable, trustworthy client will appreciate your frankness, a bad one not.
Beware of tricky outsourcers: never accept work from individuals/companies that refuse to provide full details or written orders. They will likely steal your work or fail to pay it at due time. Always get in touch with them on the phone or Skype, you will surely get an impression of which kind of customers they are going to be.
I know, it’s outdated stuff, mostly commonplace, but ‘repetita iuvant’ as Latins used to say. My personal advice: please, take a look at the BlueBoard, if you can, and take good notice of his/her data: he/she would probably not use the same e-mail account any longer, but probably will use his/her phone number and address for his/her scams, since they are his own. Forewarned is forearmed.
And … please, don’t laugh at me, I’m still learning, the path is long and I’m at the very beginning. Thank you!
See you soon …
Your everybody’s fool
P.S.: My message to the scammer: Burn, baby, burn … in hell!