ATA News and Activities
Scamming, Spamming, and Phishing
ATA Members and Internet Scams
Scammer Takes Identity of a Legitimate Organization
Some ATA members have recently received email requests for a quote on translation and typesetting services. The email appeared to come from a very real organization with a website, address, and phone. It all looked legitimate. Nonetheless, it was a scam.
Keep your guard up. If you have any questions or comments, please email ATA's Executive Director Walter Bacak.
Scammer Wants to Give You a Check
If it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true.
Several ATA members have received offers by email to interpret for an African prince's daughters while they sightsee and shop. Others received more official business-oriented messages: a client needs an interpreter while attending a seminar in Texas, Ohio, or some other plausible place.
The authors of these scams include the ATA member's name, email address, and primary non-English language embedded in the text of the message, which adds some credibility. After the recipient responds to the message confirming his or her availability, the author expresses a check with instructions to notify the author as soon as the check is received.
A couple days later, the scammer emails the ATA member canceling the assignment—usually the daughter or client got sick. The author of the scam then tells the member to keep $xxx for your time and trouble and wire the remainder to xxx [some other person].
Some days later, the bank will advise the ATA member that the original check was fake or drawn on a closed account. The money for the assignment was never real, and the funds sent by wire after the cancellation of the assignment are in the hands of the scammer.
According to the National Consumers League, if you wire the funds to the scammer, you will be liable for the entire amount.
The key to spotting and avoiding scams is learning how they work and what to look for. The National Consumers League's website Fraud!org is a great place to start your education. The FBI also provides details for more than 50 scams on their site.
Both of these sites are real eye openers as to all the Internet scams out there, from the old Ponzi/pyramid schemes to the "Nigerian letters"—please send me xxxx and I will send you xxxx x 2 or more—to the new "phishing" scams where requests for personal information and credit card numbers include a bank or company's logo and font style.
How Did the Scammer Get My Contact Information?
The contact information that you post online in the ATA Directory of Translation and Interpreting Services is easily accessible to the business community and the general public. That is its purpose: to help you get legitimate business. Knowing the information is readily available online also means that you need to keep your guard up.
How to Report Scam Attempts
In response to the many calls and emails from members, I have reported the targeting of ATA members to the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC). According to the IFCC website, "The IFCC is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center."
I encourage you to report any Internet scam messages that you receive. And email ATA's Executive Director as well.
- Internet Crime Complaint Center
- National Consumers League
- Internet White Collar Crime Center
- Federal Trade Commission
- eConsumer.gov (cross border complaints)
Tips for Recognizing and Avoiding Fake Check Scams
If someone you don't know wants to pay you by check but wants you to wire some of the money back, beware! It's a scam that could cost you thousands of dollars.
- There are many variations of the fake check scam. It could start with someone offering to buy something you advertised, pay you to do work at home, give you an “advance” on a sweepstakes you've supposedly won, or pay the first installment on the millions that you'll receive for agreeing to have money in a foreign country transferred to your bank account for safekeeping. Whatever the pitch, the person may sound quite believable.
- Fake check scammers hunt for victims. They scan newspaper and online advertisements for people listing items for sale, and check postings on online job sites from people seeking employment. They place their own ads with phone numbers or email addresses for people to contact them. And they call or send emails or faxes to people randomly, knowing that some will take the bait.
- They often claim to be in another country. The scammers say it's too difficult and complicated to send you the money directly from their country, so they'll arrange for someone in the U.S. to send you a check.
- They tell you to wire money to them after you've deposited the check. If you're selling something, they say they'll pay you by having someone in the U.S. who owes them money send you a check. It will be for more than the sale price; you deposit the check, keep what you're owed, and wire the rest to them. If it's part of a work-at-home scheme, they may claim that you'll be processing checks from their “clients.” You deposit the checks and then wire them the money minus your “pay.” Or they may send you a check for more than your pay “by mistake” and ask you to wire them the excess. In the sweepstakes and foreign money offer variations of the scam, they tell you to wire them money for taxes, customs, bonding, processing, legal fees, or other expenses that must be paid before you can get the rest of the money.
- The checks are fake but they look real. In fact, they look so real that even bank tellers may be fooled. Some are phony cashiers checks, others look like they're from legitimate business accounts. The companies whose names appear may be real, but someone has dummied up the checks without their knowledge.
- You don't have to wait long to use the money, but that doesn't mean the check is good. Under federal law, banks have to make the funds you deposit available quickly – usually within one to five days, depending on the type of check. But just because you can withdraw the money doesn't mean the check is good, even if it's a cashier's check. It can take weeks for the forgery to be discovered and the check to bounce.
- You are responsible for the checks you deposit. That's because you're in the best position to determine the risk – you're the one dealing directly with the person who is arranging for the check to be sent to you. When a check bounces, the bank deducts the amount that was originally credited to your account. If there isn't enough to cover it, the bank may be able to take money from other accounts you have at that institution, or sue you to recover the funds. In some cases, law enforcement authorities could bring charges against the victims because it may look like they were involved in the scam and knew the check was counterfeit.
- There is no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire money back. If a stranger wants to pay you for something, insist on a cashiers check for the exact amount , preferably from a local bank or a bank that has a branch in your area.
- Don't deposit it – report it! Report fake check scams to the National Fraud Information Center/Internet Fraud Watch, a service of the nonprofit National Consumers League, at www.fraud.org or (800) 876-7060. That information will be transmitted to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.
Additional information previously published in The ATA Chronicle: