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.
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
- 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: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. 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!