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July 31, 2014 5:26 am

Gaza War Does Not Stop Palestinian Efforts to Scam Translators

avatar by Josephine Bacon

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Israel police closing roads east of the Gaza Strip, Thursday afternoon. Photo: Israel Police

Israel police closing roads east of the Gaza Strip, Thursday afternoon. Photo: Israel Police.

One sector of the world economy that is unlikely to side with Gaza in Operation Protective Edge is the translation community. Translation of foreign languages is an industry that has mushroomed since computerization and globalization, and is now worth billions of dollars. As with every other business sector that relies heavily on electronic communication, the translation business is vulnerable to scams and identity theft – and the Gazans are the Olympic gold medalists in this field. One expert who runs a site identifying scammers estimates that 98% of the fake translation agencies who steal translators’ identities and rip off clients and translators alike, are based in the Arab world and mainly in Gaza.

It works like this: a translation agency finds a professional translator through the Internet. It approaches the translator and tells him/her if the translator sends them his/her resume, it will market their services. In fact, the scammer uses the resume in order to steal the translator’s identity. It then changes the translator’s email address on the c.v. to one it invents for itself, and markets this c.v., sometimes pretending to be the translator in question but more often under a fake identity. The technique has been very successful, but now scammers just steal the identities of genuine translators without their knowledge or permission, and market the translator’s services as their own.

The translation work they generate is usually awful, cobbled together from Google Translate, though the scammer agencies sometimes farm out the work to “real” translators who, of course, never get paid. The fake agency always demands payment from its client via Paypal because this does not reveal the identity of the payee until payment has gone through. By then it is too late; you realize that payment for your translation into French or German has gone to someone with a distinctly un-French or un-German name.

I’ve encountered numerous scams of this kind – all of which have originated in the Gaza Strip as can be seen from the IP address of the sender. It’s yet another sign of the depravity in Gaza that isn’t being covered in the media.

If you are a translator and are ever approached in this way, there are a few pointers to determine if the application has come from a fake agency in Gaza. Firstly, the name of the agency. These agencies use a number of names, best known among them is Languagemet, but there is also Gentle Translations and a host of others.

Another tell-tale sign is that the “translator” will have a name that doesn’t “match” their languages (a European surname for someone who claims to translate into Chinese, for instance), and they always claim to work into and from English even when the message is full of mistakes in English. I got one the other day using the header “inquirey.” The fighting in Gaza does not seem to have dampened the enthusiasm of the scammers; I continue to receive at least three messages a day.

Another good indication that the message is fake is to check the long message headers. You will usually find that the address from which the message was originally sent and where it purports to come from do not match. That is a sure sign of a scam.

Fortunately, if you need a translation and you are approached out of the blue by a translator, there is a website to help you. It has been created by a very public-spirited Portuguese translator and is entitled Translator Scammers Intelligence Group. It currently lists the names of a total of 2,795 “translators” and a number of the names used by fake agencies. If you need a genuine translator, there are plenty of legitimate sites to visit such as the websites of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting in the United Kingdom and the American Translators Association,  as well as ProZ.com.

Why do the Gazans indulge in this type of fraud? Nobody knows, but it certainly shows the mentality prevailing in Gaza.

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