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The Importance of Translation in Preventing International Fraud

Jan 16, 2018

In any new business relationship, establishing trust is difficult. It can be hard enough to reliably assess the integrity of an unfamiliar party when you speak the same language. With multilingual communication, it can be nearly impossible to feel confident when you’re dealing with someone new. And you’re right to be wary. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), organizations around the world lose 5% — or about $3.5 trillion — of their annual revenues to fraud. There are unscrupulous parties out there and without knowledge of the culture and context in which a stranger operates, you may misconstrue innocent behaviors as deceptive actions — or fail to see culturally obvious signs of dishonesty.

No substitute for multilingual due diligence

It makes no sense to turn one’s back in fear on the potential earnings or savings of the international marketplace. What’s required, therefore, is enhanced due diligence in verifying that who you’re dealing with is who they claim to be, and that the products and services they offer are as represented. This is where the assistance of a qualified language service provider becomes invaluable.

It’s important that any business, regardless of size and industry sector, do what it can to mitigate risk when dealing with other entities. Not only is one’s company at risk of being defrauded, but it can also find itself having unknowingly colluded in the criminal activities of a connected individual or entity, and thus be itself vulnerable to prosecution and serious penalties. Nefarious types often engage in carefully-parsed, misleading language that obfuscates important truths, and the danger of being deceived is exponentially increased when you’re unfamiliar with the nuances of that person’s native tongue.

Seeing what isn’t being said

Risk mitigation may be conducted by a number of different departments in your organization (e.g. legal, accounting, HR, etc.) – all of which should be working with professional translators to help them more fully assess and understand the multilingual information they receive. When working internationally in more than one language, this is the only way to ensure that all final risk conclusions are sound.

Without assistance from an LSP, vetting materials in foreign languages will be difficult. The task goes far beyond a simple translation of the words — it must also encompass the contents’ deeper meaning, and expose anything the words are not saying. Vetting a new business partner should include:

  • looking for the telltale signs of fraud and money laundering
  • knowing specifically how fraud and money laundering have manifested in the past within specific types of international business relationships
  • being familiar with behavioral profiles that can signify criminality.

Pinpointing what’s important

Bad actors may attempt to overwhelm a company’s investigators with so much content that a thorough assessment becomes so time-consuming as to be impractical. Working with an LSP, the company’s investigators can identify specific keywords or phrases that need to be examined rather than struggling through a word-by-word translation of all submitted documentation. The LSP can then conduct an in-depth translation of selected texts for the investigator.

Of course, that translated information must also be verified, and a linguist with knowledge of the source language and culture is more likely to be able to identify things that don’t seem quite right in the documentation, or during verbal business communications. If a relationship with the party is ultimately established, the results of this verification process should be retained so they can be periodically compared against subsequent documentation and conversations for consistency.

An ounce of protection

It’s always possible for a company to be defrauded in spite of its best efforts. Still, it’s far more likely that a predator is simply depending on its prey not exercising due diligence, having considered it not worth the bother. Morningside can help make sure that’s not your company.


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