Scam alert: AATII and a possible large-scale identity theft




  • Greater than 3 minutes, my friend!

    Hey guys,

    Just heard the news about a possible scam surrounding a mysterious organization called AATII which stands for Alliance of Applied Translators and Interpreters International.

    It seems like it’s a commercial organization that is located in British Columbia, well, at least that’s what their WHOIS information contains.

    Their website appears to be some sort of directory/platform for translators, but here’s the problem: none of the people listed there had actually given their consent to be there.

    Apparently information has been scrapped from various online directories for translators.

    I figured we need to alert all the members of The Open Mic community about this.

    You might find more details on this forum thread and in this Facebook post.

    From what I can tell this website somehow scrapped the names of translators and then randomized the information about their rates, etc.

    For example, when I searched for an English-Russian translator the website simply showed me a list of all members even many of them were not actual English-Russian translators.

    I’ve seen some familiar names in there, and I believe we need to spread the word about this.

    Translators be careful! Your name might have been illegally placed in @AATIICOM's directoryClick To Tweet

    My name is there. What’s the best course of action?

    If you’ve found your name in their directory and you didn’t give your permission you might want to take the following steps:

    1. File a complaint to Registrar Abuse Contact Email: abuse-contact@publicdomainregistry.com
    2. File a Privacy Complaint to Canadian authorities.
    3. DO NOT contact the AATII directly. Don’t risk giving your actual email address away to potential scammers.

    I’m sure many of other tech-savvy readers and readers who have better expertise in legal matters like this will share some other helpful tips in the comments.

    If you have any other information about this organization you can also share it in the comments.

    Unfortunately things like this keep happening over and over again.

    Luckily we have many online communities and together we can take this website down rather easily.

    Of course it is highly unlikely that any customers would ever buy translation services from a website where you can literally put translators into a basket, but still we need to stay vigilant.

    Using someone’s name without a permission and falsifying information about that person by randomizing data about rates, availability, etc. is a major violation of privacy and I’m quite confident that it’s illegal.

    What can we do to prevent incidents like this from happening?

    The best thing we could do is be proactive.

    For example, I google my name every now and then to see the results. Sure, my name is quite unique and it’s easier for me to filter all the results and find something out of ordinary.

    But if you google your name and put the word “translator” next to it you might narrow down the search results and find the suspicious looking websites rather easily.

    Once you do, it’s the matter of publicity.

    You can use forums, groups and even The Open Mic to alert fellow translators about anything suspicious (on The Open Mic we have a separate category for this called “Life at the bottom”).

    Lucky for us, scammers often underestimate the power of translation community and how quickly news can spread among us.

    Huge thanks to all the people who flagged this, including: Sheila Gomes, Heather McCrae‎, Anna Barbosa, Loek van Kooten, Susana E. Cano Méndez and many others for spreading the word about this on social media.

    Feel free to share this post too, so that more people could know about it and take action.

    Dear @PrivacyPrivee we believe our personal information has been mishandled by @AATIICOMClick To Tweet
    Dmitry Kornyukhov

    About Dmitry Kornyukhov

    Founder of The Open Mic. English-Russian Translator. Video game localization specialist. Helping small and medium-sized businesses go global. Loving every minute of it.

    19 thoughts on “Scam alert: AATII and a possible large-scale identity theft

    1. Dmitry, hard to tell if they are real scammers if you ask me. But I would be careful indeed. I looked for ENG>DUT translators, and there are none. Any real scammer would have a least one translator for this language pair. For sure these guys are collecting mail addresses; that is not illegal as such: it only becomes illegal when they use your CV to get work and then give it to someone else… I did find my mail address on job and freelance portals as well, but I don’t consider this scamming as long I it is transparent and as long as people who find me there, send jobs to me. People don’t need our approval to list us on their site…

      Back to AATII : I did not find them on the translator-scammers website (link to translator-scammers.com) and this is the site I check frequently to see how creative people with bad intentions can be. There is also very good advice on what to do in case you have been scammed on that site.

      In any case: let’s be careful indeed.

      1. Hey Gert!

        They’re on Translator Scammers (Note 123): link to translator-scammers.com

        I agree that using your name can be acceptable at times, but when they also add some other information, like rates, etc.

        It also seems like some of the information might have been scrapped from The Open Mic profiles too 🙁

        I’ve found a couple of our members who’s information have been scrapped.

        1. I must have made a typo when looking for AATII. I did not see them and I looked for several people I know, most of them with very open profiles and none of them was there… Maybe they are backing off indeed.

        1. I only know the Belgian law a bit, and here the rule says anyone can start a database with information that can be found on the internet. Even more: if you can prove you did a lot of effort to create that database, you basically own the data EVEN if you just copied what you have found on the internet.

          That does not mean I’m defending a scammer at all. I already wrote about scammers on TheOpenMic some months ago because of the fact they are harming us: they copy our data, then they steal their jobs, their damage our reputation. Most of them also don’t deliver anything to their customers while using our name. No pardon for them.

          1. I’m a total noob when it comes to laws too 🙂

            BUT when a website presents itself as a some sort of a commercial platform where people can create profiles and other people can buy their services, then there has to be at least some sort of a process to receive an approval from a person to have his/her profile there.

            I mean, imagine The Open Mic would’ve created profiles for hundreds of people without their consent and added information about their rates, languages, specializations, etc.

            I think when a platform have accounts or profiles that can be created, those accounts have to be created by the users themselves and not by a magic Internet-scrapping script.

            At least that’s what I think. I don’t know what the Canadian laws say about such cases, though.

          2. I just wonder what can be done to stop this from happening? I’m also worried The Open Mic could also become a target for such abuse in the future. Gotta pick the brains of developers I know to see what they think about it.

            1. In Europe there is a law now that individuals can ask search engines to be forgotten, and search engines can also blacklist companies so they cannot be found by people looking for services. (they are doing this for some terrorist promo sites now.) We could start a petition to ask Google & co to “forget” the scammers… just thinking up loud. Or we could push organisations like ATA to start a process against scammers. But the main problem with this, is that these kind of criminal companies disappear and re-appear in no time, using a different name and using the same techniques. I don’t know if blacklisting them on search engines is that effective. For sure those running the translator-scammers.com site must have thought about this as well. So it won’t be that easy to get rid of them.

            2. What I found interesting is that they’re actually trying to blend in into the translation community. Creating profiles on social networks, following translators, sharing articles (I believe they shared articles from TOM and even engaged into conversations on Twitter). They also replied to a forum thread.

              So I really don’t know what to think about it. All I can really do, I guess is to invest in TOM’s security, making sure it never happens to our profiles, but you can never be 100% sure, especially when information is publicly available and can be indexed by Google.

              The only solution would be closing the community and making it private, but it goes against the idea behind The Open Mic. We really need to think of some preventive measures.

              It’s great that translation community is vigilant and super responsive, but we also need to ensure we work towards solving this problem together.

    2. Hmm…. interesting developments. So it seems like the profiles of hundreds of translators have been removed from this website. Only a few remained. Some of them were The Open Mic members so I decided to reach out to them to see if they’re aware of that. According to them they created profiles themselves although didn’t know what the website was about. 🙂

      I could swear I’ve seen hundreds of names in their directory and right now it only displays a handful of people.

      I suspect they’ve removed the scrapped names after the translation community started generating a lot of buzz about it and left only those who actually created profiles on their website.

        1. Thank you for sharing, Roland! I’m surprised they actually have the nerve to defend themselves blaming everything on some sort of “IT mistake”? Yeah, right…

          I wonder what’s their explanation as to why they had these profiles in the first place and how did they collect this information. But I’m afraid they won’t tell us that.

    3. It’s hard to search for individuals, but I managed to do my language pairs and then narrow it by location. I don’t seem to be on there, but weirdly some of my other local colleagues are. Perhaps they have taken information from lots of different places?
      My question is: what happens once you add a translator to your “cart” if they don’t even realise that their details are listed on such a platform? Do they only then contact the translator, or is the translation done by someone else under the guide of hiring a professional? It’s all very fishy!

      1. Well I’d hope they’d contact the translator and say: “Hey! Here’s new client who wants to work with you” but based on how they’ve created this database without asking for the permission, I really doubt that would ever happen.

    4. Dear Gert Van Assche: I know you didn’t mean to defend scammers in general or AATII in particular, but the fact is that your posts (identified by your name too) have now been taken by AATII and posted a couple times in their Twitter feed, precisely to defend what they did. A number of people have responded and cited national and EU legislation against precisely the laws they broke. You may not be aware of the full picture. AATII did not merely publish names of translators and interpreters available in public spaces: they fabricated specialties out of thin air, published invented rates (until enough people screamed), and, worse yet, gave each person a rating based, they claimed, on examining their credentials internationally. Before they hid (but not deleted) all the profiles by the end of a long day of protests, the vast majority of people listed were given the lowest rating, merely acceptable. That, in my humble opinions, constitutes reputational damage. But wait, it gets worse: in order to have his or her rating reconsidered by these self-proclaimed judges, each person would have to pay $260 to have AATII reassess his or her credentials for “accreditation,” which they claim is “internationally recognized”(by whom?). There’s a name for making someone pay to stop damaging their public reputation — I’ll let you guess it.

      Do you still think all of this is legal?

      The problem with these kinds of outfits is that they mimic legitimate ones just enough to lull people into not doing their due diligence. As scammers get more and more clever, they will pull the wool over our eyes more easily, unless we take the time to dig around further, read all the materials an outfit puts out, and put their actions in the broader context. If we don’t do this, then we will fall prey to their ploys over and over again. Or our own words will get appropriated by them to defend their indefensible maneuvers…

      1. Catherine , thanks for pointing me to this. You can see I quickly saw they are real scammers indeed, and I corrected my first findings about 15 minutes after my first post. These are not only people with bad intentions, they also know to hide very well what they are really doing. As soon as I figured out why I could not find them on the scammer list, I published a correction because we cannot delete or undo our feedback here (after 5 minutes). I don’t blame anyone else but me here — as there is no UNDO on TheOpenMic, I should have been more careful. I never looked for an undo or delete my comments button before. I only noticed then it did not exist.
        I did not mean to defend them in any way, I just learned that if someone writes a warning, I should check it in order not to go with the flow. My first 2 checks did not warn me, and that is what I reported.
        About “legal”… That is another issue: what is legal in the US is illegal somewhere else, and vice versa. We can debate about this, but that is pointless. On the internet things are international and there is no international law that we can call to in order to shut down scammers like AATII.
        I do agree with Dmitry: these guys are doing a pretty good job to blend in — and I did not notice that, and I really feel sorry about this.

        1. Hey, Gert! Have you seen the tweets they’ve published with screenshots of your comments here and using your words as if you were defending them?

          After that their intentions have become pretty clear to me. What I don’t understand is why are they trying to defend themselves? Do they seriously believe translators would look the other way and they’ll be able to use their names again? Or do they think translators would simply forget about it and let it slide?

          Their tweets about being bullied are beyond the pale. So it’s OK to use questionable and illegal business practices, but it’ not OK to be called on it? I feel like we’re dealing with a troll here and I wish translators were more persistent and took this matter to court.

      2. Hi Catherine,
        I wonder if this could be a precedent for legal proceedings? Perhaps translation associations could help their members in that regard? Because if translators won’t take legal action this organization would continue to exist. They call themselves a “smart start-up” after all. So perhaps, translation community could take the matter to court this time around?

        They’re clearly either trolling the community or they seriously believe that there was nothing wrong or illegal in what they did. I find this appalling because normally such outfits simply disappear into a thin air, but this one acts like they’re here to stay, so perhaps, actual official associations could provide legal support to the translators whose names were illegally used?

        1. ATA spokespersons have made noises that they’re going to talk with ITI, CIoL, FIT, and others — and then, natch, their lawyers — about investigating where this outfit got the translator names for its database. They also say they are discussing possible “joint action.”

          Frankly, I doubt they’ll do a thing. The ATA received a link to the AATII webpage that lists ALL of the associations from which it scraped translator names, but the silence has been deafening ever since.

          Unfortunately, this is a ploy that the big associations pull all the time, hoping that their freelance members will forget about the issue in the meantime. Let’s face it: they’ve been taken over by the translation agencies, the self-proclaimed “Language Service Providers,” and other players in the so-called translation “industry,” who certainly don’t want freelancer peons getting ideas in their heads about collective action for change.

          I would love to be proved wrong in this case.

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