If you have been in freelance translating for a long, you might have experienced various forms of translation scams. If not, you must have read about them somewhere. OverPayment is an old technique that scammers have been using against freelance translators. This post is to alert fellow translators so they don’t get trapped in this scam.

What is an Overpayment Scam?

Overpayment scams work by getting you to ‘refund’ a scammer who has sent you too much money for an item you are selling.

What does an Overpayment scam mean to translators?

The scammers usually send an extra amount of money than the one specified in the invoice. They will ask for a refund later on.

The overpayment scam is also known as the “PUBLIC ORGANIZATION PROCEDURES RESEARCH PHASE 1” scam but it can have various forms.

Here is an article by Alex Levoff. He explains this scam explicitly. I found this article somewhere in a Facebook group. I am posting this here thinking that it will help other translators.


This morning I received an email with the request to translate a document. When I opened it I found the old and familiar scam “PUBLIC ORGANIZATION PROCEDURES RESEARCH PHASE 1”. I haven’t seen it for a while and was quite sure that the scam is long dead. Obviously, the scammers are still “phishing” with it. It means that some people are still getting caught.

If you are familiar with this scam you don’t have to read further. For those who are not, I will explain how the scam works.

You are receiving a document like this. It is about 40 pages long. The text is usually a handout material from one of the educational seminars. “Phase 1” is a tell, because it is essential for the scheme. They ask you to translate it from English to your language. The deadline is about 4 weeks and they offer good pay. In my case, they offered 18 cents a word. They offer to pay with a bank check. Note, that they never offer to pay with PayPal, credit card, or bank transfer.

You take the job, spend a lot of time on it, and send the translation. You will receive a check which you most probably will immediately take to the bank. The check will be for an amount twice the amount of your invoice. They will tell you that the other part is for the future “Phase 2”. They are so impressed with your work that they decided to pay upfront.

The next day you will receive an email telling you that “Phase 2” has been canceled, and they will ask you to refund the difference. If you believe them you will send them the difference in real money. In about a week the bank will return their original fake check. The bank will also charge you $30 for depositing an invalid check. So you will be out of the amount you’ve sent plus the bank charge. Of course, you will never find the culprits and return your money. Please be careful. These are trying times and the last thing we need is to deal with scammers.

There are different forms of scams targeted towards the translator. As a freelance translator, you have to be careful to avoid such scams as Alex Levoff has suggested.


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