Internet Scams

Even Lawyers Fall For Them!


Internet Scams. If you’ve gotten this e-mail, undoubtedly you have received LOTS of unwanted e-mail from scammers. It may be from the Minister of the Interior of the Republic of (fill in the blank) or the wife of the deposed ruler of (once again, fill in the blank), or perhaps you have won a foreign lottery which you never knew you entered. They all ask for bank account information to deposit your new found wealth. We have read these e-mails and thought to ourselves, “who would ever fall for this?” Well, some people must be falling for it since these e-mails persist.

Can you believe, even lawyers have fallen for these scams? After four years of college, three years of law school and experience in the law, over 80 attorneys have fallen for this scam. The scammers took over $32 million from these gullible lawyers. Here’s how it goes.

The most common scenario involves an overseas individual or company that contacts a U.S. lawyer by e-mail and asks to retain the lawyer to collect a debt from a US company or perhaps an ex-husband. The “Client” provides documents which show what appears to be a legitimate judgment. With little or no work, the “Debtor” provides a cashier’s check to the attorney and the attorney thinks he just made easy money. As an aside, there is no such thing as “easy money” and if it appears to be too good to be true, it probably is. Here are a few examples of the e-mails lawyers receive from scammers.

The lawyer waits five business days for the cashier’s check to clear the bank and wires the funds, less his hefty fee, to the overseas bank account of the “Client.” A few days later, the Bank notifies the lawyer that the check was counterfeit and debits the account for the amount. There are various results as to whether this is covered by malpractice insurance. But the lawyer is on the hook for this money.

To avoid these, and other internet scams, consider the following:

  • Be suspicious of anyone who contacts you via the internet
  • Never provide your bank account or personal information to someone on the internet
  • Even if the bank says a check has cleared does not mean that the funds are valid. You and your Bank must check the authenticity of the check with the issuing bank. Sometimes it can takes weeks to discover a good forgery
  • Be suspicious of anyone who wants you to act quickly or wire transfer funds
  • Finally, know with whom you are dealing when engaging in any internet transaction, especially since there is no face-to-face communication

Internet ScamsHaving a lot of education, like lawyers, does not mean they have an ounce of common sense. Although this article has been about lawyer scams, the same advice holds true with all interactions involving the internet. I am sad to say, we have received calls from clients who have fallen for these and other internet scams. Our advice is typically that there is not much which can be done.

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