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Lesson 61: How to protect your translator CV from scammers?

In the past few months we’ve been witnessing an increasing activity of translator CV scammers and thieves. As a part of this scam, scammers may pretend they have a project for you or would like to include you in their database, while in fact they’re harvesting your CV, replacing your email address (and sometimes your name and surname) and impersonating you, stealing your potential clients. This is a fact and it’s been described in detail in the Translator Scammers Directory published by the Translator Scammers Intelligence Group.

The scope of this problem is indeed huge and impersonation can be extremely dangerous and damaging to your reputation, not to mention lost clients. You know that I’m dedicated to improving CVs and making them work for freelancers, so I decided to look at the ways of protecting our CVs from translation scams.

I’ve carried out a lot of research, both in our industry and elsewhere, resulting in compiling a list of preventive measures you may want to introduce. However, let’s start by looking at three broad CV threats first.

Identity theft

Despite many warnings from a variety of sources, people are still amazingly careless about their details shared online. Almost every day I receive a translator’s CV with a date of birth, place of birth, full address, etc. It is extremely dangerous to reveal such personal details to strangers, not to even mention including them in a document available online. Providing as few as three pieces of personal details, you’re running a risk of ending up with unwanted credit cards, loans or cleared bank accounts. Just don’t do that. More info in this article and this presentation.

Agency unethical use

Some time in 2012 we were alerted to a potential unethical behaviour presented by agencies participating in tenders. Allegedly, some agencies were harvesting CVs to win a tender but then they would outsource the projects to cheaper (and potentially providing lower quality) translators whose CVs were never included in the tender documentation. I believe I might have been affected by this behaviour in the past. In order to avoid it now, I simply work only with selected agencies whom I trust (and vice versa) and I refuse to participate in bulk tenders offered by complete strangers.

CV theft and impersonation

However, the most burning problem now is caused by CV thieves and scammers who impersonate genuine professional translators and steal their work, very often damaging their reputation. I must admit, I’ve been careless about this issue in the past, but now I’m much more aware and alert. Below, I’m presenting a number of measures you can introduce to protect your work and reputation.

How to protect your translator CV?

  • 1. Research the sender

When you receive an email with a potential project or an offer of collaboration, even basic research can help you establish if it’s a genuine opportunity. Start with verifying the website, then ask your colleagues or professional circles if anybody has worked with them before. Try looking them up on all translation forums and boards. Call them, or add them on Skype. Joao Roque Dias recommends looking up the sender’s IP and running a geographical search just to be sure this person is a genuine representative of an agency. If something’s just not right, don’t send your CV.

  • 2. Use common sense

If an offer looks suspicious, it’s better to be careful than fall for a scam. Unprofessional offers, free email accounts, too few details in a signature, too high rate or poor English (or the other language) should raise an alarm. If you’re not sure if this is a genuine offer, you can always exchange a few emails with questions before supplying the sender with your CV.

  • 3. Keep records

Set up a simple spread sheet where you can keep records of who you’re sending your CV to, when and with which result. By doing that, you’ll not only have a better control over who has received a copy of your CV, but you’ll also be better at following up.

  • 4. Encourage clients to contact you on skype with a webcam

As recommended by Joao Roque Dias and others, you should encourage your prospective clients to confirm each other’s identify on Skype via video chat. To do that, you should place an up-to date photo on your CV.

  • 5. Remove personal details

As I mentioned before, don’t add your date of birth, place of birth, full address, or marital status. This is way too dangerous.

  • 6. Include information specific to you

To protect your CV from being used by others (changing your name and surname in the headline), include bits of information specific to you that can easily be verified online, for example awards or published translations.

  • 7. Add links to external URLs

To fight CV theft where your name and surname is replaced, include links to external URLs directly pointing to you, for example your website, published translations, articles or online mentions.

  • 8. Time and name stamp your CV

Adding a line saying: „© Marta Stelmaszak. Sent to Sample Agency, London, 01/04/2013. Void after 01/06/2013. Not for further distribution or reproduction without consent.” (as suggested here).

  • 9. Add a watermark

As suggested by Rose Newell and in a few other sources, you may want to add a watermark to your document, for example containing your logo. More info from Microsoft here.

  • 10. Include an email statement

It is advisable to include a short statement along the lines of „Only the following email addresses are genuine and authorised: and I will never contact you from any other email address. If you receive an email from another address, please do contact me as it may constitute a potential scam.” You may want to add this line to your website, or as an annotation on your CV.

  • 11. Save your CV using your name and surname

As simple as that, don’t save and send your CV as „resume” but add your name and surname to the file.

  • 12. In Word, add your name and surname in the author box

When working on your CV, check the Properties of your document and make sure that your name and surname are added in the author box (more info).

  • 13. Save your CV as PDF

It is now possible to convert documents into PDFs in MS Office with just a few clicks and we should be doing that with our CVs. This is the most basic form of protection. If you’ve added your name and surname in Word, the same properties will be carried over to the PDF. (more info)

  • 14. Save your CV as a non-editable PDF

If you’re using Adobe Acrobat Pro (and if you’re not using it yet, you may want to consider investing in it), you can save your CV as a non-editable PDF and change the security settings, restricting editing and printing of your document.

  • 15. Password-protect your CV saved in PDF

It is not a bullet-proof method, but password-protecting your CV saved in the PDF format can increase your security. You can distribute the password only to vetted recipients, for example genuine enquirers, separately from your CV. You can do that in MS Word, no need to buy Adobe Acrobat Pro.

  • 16. Remove your CV from online platforms

Don’t make your CV easily available through online platforms or on your website (I’ve been guilty of the latter until recently). It’s better to upload another document inviting clients to contact you, or even a bold statement explaining you’ve removed your CV for security reasons.

  • 17. Use brochures or leaflets online

Instead of a full CV, you can always prepare a short brochure or a leaflet and upload it instead. They will be more secure, and can even help your marketing!

  • 18. Set viewing only but no download

You can ask your programmer to change settings on your website allowing visitors to view content, but prohibiting them from copying or downloading it.

  • 19. If your website is WordPress-based, use protected download

WordPress users can use password-protected download of their CVs. Here’s a video explaining how it works and how to set it up.

  • 20. Make clients aware

Raising awareness of the issue among our clients can help our efforts. If our clients know about this issue, they will be more careful and alert themselves. You may want to blog about the issue, or just add a short statement explaining the problem on your website.

How do you protect your CVs? Add comments below!

Marta Stelmaszak

Marta Stelmaszak is a translator between Polish and English, combining language skills with a thorough understanding of economics and business to help SMEs make as big an international impact as possible, providing translation and interpreting services for the legal, business and marketing sectors. Read Marta's book on business.

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Alina Cincan on Aug 27, 2013 Reply

You have summed it up very nicely. I was actually planning to write a post on this topic considering the amount of fake CVs we receive.

When I was working as a freelance translator, one of the things I did was upload my CV and create a profile on a known platform, only to discover anyone could download it and see my full details (such as my address for example). I initially thought only registered members could see it, so when I discovered what was really happening, I deleted my profile and my CV from their platform.

I was thinking to write a post for agencies and outsourcers who receive this kind of fake CVs, out I am not sure that explaining how they can be caught will be beneficial, as they may learn from it and make it more difficult for us to spot them. What do you think?

Marta Stelmaszak on Jan 3, 2015 Reply

I think this might be a good idea 🙂 Albeit some of the agencies should be already aware of such practices, there surely are those, which aren’t 🙂

Diana Coada on Aug 27, 2013 Reply

Never thought of no. 8 and 10… Great tips, Marta!

Marta Stelmaszak on Jan 3, 2015 Reply

Thank you 🙂

Kathrin Caiger on Aug 27, 2013 Reply

Thank you for this very interesting summary. I had never considered to include a Copyright statement. Speaking from experience, it is very tempting as a newbie to this industry to simply post all your details, including your CV, everywhere and anywhere online, as it is one way of being noticed quickly. I believe that we are all guilty of exposing ourselves beyond a comfortable limit online. As a recent victim of scammers, I will be much more prudent with regard to giving out CVs and too much information online. I liked your suggestion with the Excel sheet. Best regards, Kathrin

Marta Stelmaszak on Jan 3, 2015 Reply

My sympathies, Kathrin, personal information theft can make us feel so exposed and vulnerable. At least now you can make sure it won’t happen again 🙂

Sarah Appleby on Aug 27, 2013 Reply

A superbly thorough list, thanks for sharing Marta and for raising awareness.

Marta Stelmaszak on Jan 3, 2015 Reply

Thank you, Sarah!

Marta Stelmaszak on Jan 3, 2015 Reply

Thank you, Carola 🙂

Claudio Porcellana on Aug 28, 2013 Reply

– Time and name stamp your CV
– Add a watermark
– save as PDF, even if password-protected
all them are useless IMHO, as far as one scammer can use OCR softwares …

I would suggest you using a digital signature (with personal token), because as far as customers and potential customers are aware that only your digitally signed CVs are surely yours (you can state it on your blog, web-site, emails etc) you are in sitting pretty (even at a law suit level)
my 2 cents

Marta Stelmaszak on Aug 29, 2013 Reply

Thanks for your insights, Claudio!
I don’t think they’re useless, I think they can increase security. If a scammer has ten CVs and one of them is watermarked or security-protected while the other nine aren’t, it’s quite likely they won’t be bothered to OCR or otherwise crack the protected one. Wouldn’t you agree?
Thanks for the digital signature tip!

Amanda Wilson on Aug 29, 2013 Reply

Hi Marta,

Only this week I was unsure about sending a document to someone I don’t really know and I did put a watermark on it, a statement saying it was my work and I PDFed it. At the time I thought, yeah but any scammer worth their salt could just use OCR, but I figured, the more difficult you make it for them ie the more levels of annoying things, then the more chance that they wouldn’t bother to scam your particular document (CV etc).

All these tips were really useful, am off to put my name as the author of my CV right away! Thanks!


Marta Stelmaszak on Jan 3, 2015 Reply

Glad I could be of help 🙂

Claudio Porcellana on Aug 28, 2013 Reply

14. Save your CV as a non-editable PDF

BTW, you don’t need buying the expensive Adobe Acrobat Pro only to do that …
Foxit softwares do the same thing for few bucks

Marta Stelmaszak on Jan 3, 2015 Reply

Thank you for the tip!

Elodie Chatelais on Aug 29, 2013 Reply

Hi 🙂

You can also use GPG to authentify / sign or encrypt your documents.


Marta Stelmaszak on Jan 3, 2015 Reply

Good idea, Elodie, thank you 🙂

Max de Montaigne on Aug 29, 2013 Reply

Thank you Marta, and everybody else for additional tips and ideas.

A scanned image of a printed CV is another way to make “their” lives more difficult.

A very comprehensive list, and it is very sad that it has to be so long. Just a comment (not for you) in re. to no. 5: quite a few registration links on agencies websites ask for a DoB, which is a good way to turn you off from registering for (i) security reasons and (ii) possible age discrimination.

Thanks again.

Marta Stelmaszak on Jan 3, 2015 Reply

I’m afraid the list might get even longer in the future. Hopefully, we will be prepared 🙂

Earl de Galantha on Aug 29, 2013 Reply

That’s all fine, but why can’t I access Joao Roque Dias’s site?
I am denied access “for security reasons”. What good is to have a site and/or refer to it, if you are spurned? 🙂

Marta Stelmaszak on Aug 29, 2013 Reply

That’s weird! Maybe you should contact Joao directly? I don’t think others face the same issue.

Kerstin Kollatz Mogensen on Aug 30, 2013 Reply

Thanks for sharing this useful list, Marta.
In fact, I already do send my CV (or profile, as I prefer to call it:) ), as a pdf, but I will definitely add a time and name stamp and a watermark.

Marta Stelmaszak on Jan 3, 2015 Reply

I’m glad I could be of help 🙂

Anthony Davis on Aug 30, 2013 Reply

Thank you very much for the heads-up! Your topic was well written, and constructed! I wish you all the best in all of your endeavours!

Marta Stelmaszak on Jan 3, 2015 Reply

Thank you and likewise 🙂

Karena Keeley on Sep 24, 2013 Reply

Is it a coincidence that there is a comment here from “Kathrin Caiger” and that this very same name appears on the “list of scammers”, to which there is a link on this page, where I read this same name just a few minutes ago?

Marta Stelmaszak on Sep 24, 2013 Reply

Maybe this is real Kathrin?

Karena Keeley on Sep 24, 2013 Reply

Yes, this could perhaps be the genuine article. If so she is very unfortunate and she has my sympathy!

Ana Dubra on Oct 4, 2013 Reply

Very sensible and smart tips, Marta, thank you! The only thing I have been doing is converting my CV into a PDF so it couldn’t be edited by someone later, but it never occurred to me that people could go to such lengths to scam others instead of spending that energy and time on working!!

Marta Stelmaszak on Jan 3, 2015 Reply

Thank you, Ana, and I always believed that if some scammers would only redirect their energy toward more legal endeavours they would fare much better 🙂

Thierry Lafaye on Oct 6, 2013 Reply

Brilliant recompilation work, Marta. I thought my data was safe enough but I did learn a lot with your post. My Website is now already updated, my CV secured and my CVs on platform profiles deleted leaving a mention to ask for CV personally. Can’t thank you enough to contribute to our data safety, and therefore our work and reputation.

One small trick I would suggest is that email addresses shouldn’t be spelt in websites, comments or CVs published online, to prevent web bots to use them for scam and spam. I personally have “distorted mine” on my website (you may want to check to see how I protected it), like adding a space before the @ sign, or change the @ with (a). This also applies to my CV and scammers may also use automatic processes

Marta Stelmaszak on Jan 3, 2015 Reply

Thank you, Thierry, both for the kind words and for a useful tip!

Shai Nave on Oct 12, 2013 Reply

Or simply stop using the term CV, the CV-employment-format, and spreading this information around as if one is seeking employment.

We are offering a commercial-professional service, do you know any other provider of similar services that is spreading around their “CV”? Sure, anyone can have a CV when it is appropriate, but not everyone SHOULD have a CV when it is not. Not only that translators are independent professional service providers and as such are not tied to any entity as their patron that they need to please, the services are more often than not rendered remotely, and it is not to rare that no visual communication is made (sometimes not even vocal, as a lot is going in text-wise), which makes it all that more dangerous or easy (depending on which side one is on) to impersonate someone else, and none-the-wiser.

This is a nice article and it is certainly better than nothing, but given the right incentive, non of the above is effective. Sadly, with the direction the marketplace is going the incentive is sometimes there. Feeding this relatively new industry of unscrupulous agencies and translators with the content on which they thrive and fraud others is a mistake as far as I’m concerned.

Marta Stelmaszak on Jan 3, 2015 Reply

Well, the advice is for those of us who want to use CVs and as I use them myself, so it seems to have a modicum of sense. Marketing yourself without one is also a valid choice, but you might want to read Lesson 59: Do translators need CVs?

Laurent Lucas on Nov 7, 2013 Reply

Thank you very much for sharing this with us Marta. Very useful information which I will definitelly be using from now on.

Marta Stelmaszak on Jan 3, 2015 Reply

Thank you for the kind words 🙂

Theodora Landgren on Jan 1, 2014 Reply

PLEASE READ IN ENTIRETY: We have just noticed this same problem as a reputable agency and noticed the swarms of freelancers that have contradictory info in the CV (our first red flag) but not the last). We would encourage all honest freelancers and agencies to cooperate to eliminate this growing problem. EXAMPLE 1: Translator not used previously, is trying to get work. She is engaged and does a small job that is elsewhere edited and found to be excellent. When trying to pay her, the agency’s bank says that money cannot be sent to that PayPal account as it is indicated by our government that the owner of that account in Palestine (translator s stated she was in Germany)is suspected to be possible money laundering to terrorists? An attempt is made to verbally contact the translator in order to get a legitimate account to pay, but translator refuses to provide phone with a litany of unacceptable excuses and has no other apparent legitimate method to pay or account to pay into. Strange thing is the translation was good and the only question is how to legally pay for work done. After her attacking the company and accusing them of being racist among other things, the agency repeatedly tells her they merely want to pay the appropriate fee for the work completed. No further info provided and thus the translator disappears into internet space. Agency discovered the scammer’s list and find her name on it. Now the question is: was she stealing the ID of another translator and misusing, or as you say stealing, customers? Or was she really funneling money to possible terrorist group? Having been myself in this business for 33 years now I am very concerned for everyone involved. Translators will become distrusting of agencies, and the reverse is true as well. I think a standard set of well thought out questions and good screening and testing and references validated, will be the beginning of a set of tools that will help to counter this dreadful practice that is threatening the livelihood of many professionals in this industry. I welcome any feedback and ideas that others have found along the way. We need to take this seriously indeed.

Marta Stelmaszak on Jan 3, 2015 Reply

Thank you, Theodora, I have read the comment in its entirety and I have to agree – this is a serious situation and it affects us all, freelancers and agencies alike. I think most professional translators benefit from alternate methods of payment, I know I do!

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