A Form of Fraud: How PayPal & Twitter Helped Save the Day & How we Conned the Scammer

Scam alert

As a translation company offering language solutions in over 125 language combinations, Trustlations.com has vendors worldwide. In our 14 years in business we have worked with over 160 vendors in 30 countries. We have meticulous processes for selecting our vendors, including areas of expertise, years of experience, accreditations, certifications, grammar tests, etc.

We were recently defrauded by an agent of evil… someone who used either a false identity or copied someone else’s résumé and used it to bypass our system. They then requested a payment in advance, which although unusual, is not illogical since they had never worked with us before. The client rushed the project (which is very typical in our industry) and we really needed the vendor to deliver quickly, so we acquiesced and paid prior to delivery.

As soon as we submitted payment, via PayPal, we discovered that the vendor’s PayPal account had a different e-mail address from the one provided as the PayPal e-mail account address and even from the e-mail address used to contact us in the first place. Although it is obviously OK for this to happen, it raised a red flag.

Immediately after submitting payment, and realizing that something was off, we searched online for possible fraud in relation to any or all of these e-mail addresses, namely:

mo_translation_import_service@yahoo.com

translation.service20@gmail.com

junkoono19@gmail.com

Two of these addresses kept on showing up as reported in blacklists like the one below from http://www.translator-scammers.com/translator-scammers-emails.htm and on Translator Scammers Directory’s (TSD) Twitter account (https://twitter.com/tsdirectory), an account with nearly 2,500 followers.

TSD goes to great lengths to straighten a crooked situation. They have created a platform that helps agencies like Trustlations.com fight back or, at the very least, be forewarned about potential scammers.

So getting back to the meat of the story… After we determined that indeed there was a scammer behind this deal this is how we proceeded (in case you find yourselves in a similar scenario):

1. We logged into our PayPal account, and realized the transaction was already marked as “Completed”, which meant we didn’t have the option to revoke it. So…

2. We clicked on Tools -> Resolution Center. There, we clicked on the Report a problem tab and clicked on the Report a problem button.

3. We selected the transaction from a list and clicked on Continue. This opened the following window:

We selected “I want to report a transaction that I didn’t authorize” and hit Continue.

4. This led us to a window with a few options and the following explanation:

We hit continue and provided all the information available to us about the scammer and the situation in the hopes that PayPal would research accordingly and rule in our favor.

5.    We also sent an e-mail with details to spoof@paypal.com, to which PayPal responded with an automatic reply, letting us know they knew it was a phishing attempt and were working on stopping the fraud.

THANK YOU, PAYPAL!

6.    Later that day we got an e-mail from PayPal saying they were reviewing the case and would send any updates.

7. And the day after the initial claim, PayPal ruled in our favor, reimbursing the funds into our account.

But the story doesn’t end here…

8. While we didn’t accuse the scammer of what they had done or unveiled their scam, we did something far better!

We asked the scammer to please translate a sample of the work that was requested within 30 minutes or we would have to revert the payment. They complied, and sent a Japanese version of the translation, which they naturally did using Google Translate (we were able to compare it). We then wrote them back stating that the proofreader said that their work was… [and here’s the magic]:

あなたが詐欺師であることを知っているが、私たちが知っているか分からないので、3匹の小さな子猫がバーに入って、母親に泣き叫びました。

This is just a bunch of gibberish in Japanese that we translated from English into Japanese (using machine translation), which made little sense.

[The English version of this is: “Three little kittens walked into a bar and came home to cry to their mother, because we know you’re a scammer but you don’t know that we know.”]

The scammer did not mention anything about what the “proofreader” had said, but instead just asked:

“Why are you reverting my payment?”

We proceeded to ask what they thought about what the proofreader had said…

It was then that it was more than obvious to us that this person’s intentions were no good. Apart from not being a legitimate translator, they didn’t even speak Japanese. They were relying on us not understanding any Japanese so that they could send a machine translation of the work, scamming us, unintentionally getting us to look bad in our client’s eyes (although is not likely to happen, since there would’ve been a second layer involving a real Japanese proofreader) and making us miss our deadline, causing a chain of disaster beyond their imaginable scam.

Quite naturally there was no further exchange of e-mails, and 3 days later, PayPal saved the day!

Any questions? Comments? Leave them below. I’ll be happy to answer to them.

Written by Bryan Lattke
Bryan Lattke is a professional translator, editor, market strategist, techie and serial entrepreneur who has a knack for travel, writing, and networking. Since 2003 he has been the Chief Creative Director of Trustlations, Inc. | Trustlations.com, overseeing translation, proofreading, copy editing, and DTP services for clients ranging from individuals to Fortune 500 companies.