We got duped: experiences from translator identity theft

We got duped: experiences from translator identity theft
March 7, 2016

Last week we were duped. Big time.

Yes, identity theft and fraud run rampant in all areas of the world yet somehow I never imagined anyone to pull off this type of shenanigan in the translation industry.

Much less translator identity theft.

Shame on the fool that doesn’t heed warnings. Because we we got duped. Here’s our experience with translator identity theft.

We have a careful vetting process for all of our translators and take pride in following a detailed process for building teams of translators around our client’s project needs. It’s a documented process that involves background checks and a series of language testing. We have a huge amount of liability and it’s our duty and responsibility to translate accurately and effectively. Translator identity theft is something that never crossed our minds.

Last week we assigned a project to linguist that we have worked with for years.

Except it wasn’t really him.

Let me explain.

Dr. Hammond (not his real name) has a doctorate in linguistics. He has 20+ years of translating complex texts including turn-of-the-century song lyrics and novels. He’s great at what he does and has turned his language skills into a craft. We requested that Dr. Hammond perform a translation last week and he replied that he would in deed complete the task and deliver it by the due date.

We checked in with Dr. Hammond throughout the project per our project process. All appeared to be progressing smoothly (note: no signs of translator identity theft.)

Then the due date arrived and what I can best describe as a string of mishmash arrived. The translation was truly a bunch of gibberish, filler text, nothing that meant anything. There were a few words translated here and there, but it was nothing anyone could use. We were truly confused. We emailed Dr. Hammond – no response. We called Dr. Hammond – no answer. We were really confused.

What was happening? Did Dr. Hammond up and disappear?

We messaged Dr. Hammond on LinkedIn and then the ball dropped. The Dr. Hammond we had developed a professional relationship with was not the same Dr. Hammond that we had contracted to perform the translation. The real Dr. Hammond explained that his identity was stolen, including his email and that someone was impersonating him. He was the victim of translator identity theft.

We then had to explain to our client the mishap and why we would be delivering the project late and not meeting the due date. Needless to say, they were not happy with us.

I never imagined that someone would steal a linguist’s identity and perform a fake translation. The fake Mr. Hammond wasn’t paid anything for his fake services, so I’m not sure what he got out of it. We got nothing but a headache and a lesson: anyone is at risk for getting duped at anytime, and translator identity theft is apparently a real thing.

Lesson Learned: Trust but verify, and verify again because even the best laid plans have faults.

INGCO International is an international communications agency specializing in translation, interpreting and global marketing in 200+ languages. We work in a wide variety of areas including: legal, medical, social services, insurance, biotechnology, manufacturing, food industries, packaging, multi-cultural and multi-lingual marketing and advertising. We take pride in representing with the super coolest global brands across the world.