The Con is On - A true detective story of dealing with a non paying client

May 20, 2015
The Con is On - A true detective story of dealing with a non paying client

The Con is On! (Or, be careful you don’t get ripped-off too.)

Have you ever had to deal with a non-paying client? Receiving late payments is very annoying, but at least you get paid in the end. However, perhaps you’ve been unfortunate enough to have completed a translation for a client but never received any payment for your hard work?

Well, unfortunately the sort of ‘client’ who will happily run away (metaphorically speaking) after they receive your completed work do exist. A while ago, this very thing happen to us here at Tomedes, and today we’ll share our story of what happened to us with the hope that it won’t happen to you.

What happened?

Last year, we were contacted by a client who wished to receive a detailed translation of some business documents. We priced our translation at $2000 in total – a fair price given the complexity and length of the target text. The client indicated that he was happy to pay our suggested fee for this service, and went ahead to commission us to begin work on his translation.Well, we assigned one of our best translators to the task, and they worked hard on providing an outstanding translation that we were happy to put our name to. We sent the completed translation back to the client along with our invoice… and we failed to hear back from them. After a few days, one of our staff members sent a friendly reminder, which also went without reply. This continued for a few months before we eventually had to give up and loose a significant sum of money.

The con-artist unmasked

Recently, we had a surprise when browsing through some news websites: the unpaying client we completed the aforementioned translation for - The I Care Foundation - was actually a front for a con-artist who set up a fake company to scam people out of money! Thankfully, the individual responsible – Peter Senese - has been arrested and charged.

Senese has a long history of fraud and has regularly deceived people over an extended period of time. Victoria Strauss, who writes for the Writer Beware blog, has spent some time following Senese’s exploits over the years, which includes various periods of time both inside and outside prison. Strauss highlights a number of complex scams that Senese employed over the years, including posing as a health care venture capitalist, stealing large sums of money and various literary scams. 

An example of one of Senese’s literary scams includes the ‘novel’ Senese cobbled together in 2003: Cloning Christ. The book was billed as ‘A Global Theological Thriller’. In actuality, the manuscript contained pages of hastily written, disorganized text that had little to do with either cloning or Christ. Rather, the book was intended to be part of a wider scam designed to extract money from Christian booksellers in the US. In Strauss’ own words:

…following the release of Cloning Christ, Senese contacted Christian booksellers across the country to set up signings. He told the booksellers that his novel was about to be made into a major motion picture starring Viggo Mortensen and John Malkovich, and promised that the stars would attend the signings. Senese then failed to show up for the signings, leaving booksellers stuck with large quantities of unsalable, unreturnable books. This scheme was the focus of an article in a 2004 issue of Christian Retailing magazine.

As a serial conman, Senese was always looking for a new scam to conduct, and we got unwittingly caught up in his most recent exploit: The I Care Foundation. The I Care Foundation scam was particularly disgusting, as it targeted the parent of a missing child taken during a custody dispute between parents, praying on the parent’s concern for their child to try and extract money from them. It sickens us to think that we had some part in unknowingly facilitating this man’s machinations through our provision of translation services, but we’re thankful that he’s been identified and will be made to answer for his crimes.

Lessons that can be learned

Perhaps if you bill new clients after you complete your translation work for them then you might want to consider asking them to pay upfront (at least partially). It certainly made us think about measures we could take to try and prevent this happening to us again.

We also want to make our colleagues and readers aware of bad form within our industry, and hopefully this Hub post and the links in this article will help raise awareness of this type of behavior and help you to avoid scammers in the future.

Final thoughts

Have you ever encountered a client that took your translation and refused to pay? If so, what did you do? Perhaps this Hub post has inspired you to think carefully about who you provide your services for, and when to request that new clients pay your fee? Let us know in the comments below.

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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