FAKE CHECK SCAMS AIMED AT INTERPRETERS
Kenneth Barger , WITS President
Interpreters beware! A nefarious brand of internet criminal is targeting members of our profession.
Known as "fake check scams," this con game shows up in the form of an e-mail requesting the victim's services. The scammer makes the victim an offer too good to refuse, including advance payment, then initiates the fake check scam, which works in the following way. When the victim agrees to provide the service, the scammer sends a fake check, which is a forgery good enough to fool the bank, at least temporarily. Then the scammer tells the victim that there was an overpayment and requests that the victim wire the balance back. After the victim does so, the bank discovers that the check is fake--the account does not exist or is now closed--and the victim is out the money.
The danger does not end there, because during the transaction, these criminals may gain access to sensitive personal data belonging to the victim.
In recent months, more and more of these fake check scams have been aimed at interpreters. They differ from other spam, which is sent to thousands or millions of recipients, in that the message is customized to the particular intended victim, including details like the city where the victim lives, the language he or she interprets, and so forth.
These scam e-mails seem to take mostly two forms. One is from a supposed groom-to-be who claims his wife speaks only Spanish, Mandarin, or some other language, and will need an interpreter for the wedding and reception somewhere in the United States. Another comes from Bishop So-and-So from some African country or another--Ghana has shown up several times. The supposed bishop will be touring your area with his wife (and maybe his daughters), and the wife needs interpretation in your language for several days, several hours a day.
There are some clues that the message you receive may be a scam. These scammers generally have atrocious grammar, spelling, and formatting. They will need your services for a period of multiple days, and they invite you to practically name your price, implying that they will pay in advance whatever you ask. And the situation might just seem generally improbable, such as the Lao-speaking wife of an African bishop going on a tour of Bellingham, or something of the sort.
WHAT DO I DO?
The maddening thing about these scams is that despite how far-fetched they may sound, they also sound like a pretty attractive gig. Exercise caution and try to verify the authenticity of a gig before agreeing to it. You can do this by looking up the company or the person offering work on one of the internet's ever-more-efficient search engines, where you may discover that others have already seen and uncovered the scam. If you are not sure, you might call the potential client and ask a couple of good questions to see if they sound authentic.
If you receive a fake check scam e-mail, you can report it to your internet service provider (ISP). Many ISPs have a dedicated e-mail address for reporting spam. Check with your ISP to find out if they have one. You can also report e-mail scams to the FBI at www.fbi.gov. Click on "Submit a Tip" on the left side of the page.
To be realistic, your ISP probably receives thousands of tips about spam, and the FBI is more interested in chasing racketeers and terrorists than going after fake check scammers. It may be that the best we can do is avoid falling for their tricks, thereby demonstrating to these creepos that the interpreters of the Pacific Northwest are not easily taken advantage of, and forcing them to look elsewhere for prey.
Further information can be found here
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Last Revised: October 27, 2012
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