You don’t normally think of lawyers as potential victims of fraud–they’re usually pretty savvy folks. However, there is a check/wire fraud scam that specifically targets attorneys. The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) posted a warning about it a couple of years ago, but it’s still going around.
Although he isn’t an attorney, a colleague at Your BBB recently received one of those emails–if it had landed in an unsuspecting attorney’s inbox, he or she could have become a victim.
The email is short and sweet: “Hello, I am seeking representation for a wrongful dismissal. Please advice if this is your area of practice and how much it will cost me to retain your firm.” And a name and phone number. A quick web search shows others have received the same email.
If an attorney responds, the scam artist will make some excuse why he can’t pay the retainer up front and will ask the attorney to take payment from the final settlement. At this time it turns into your basic check overpayment scam–the same one used on regular consumers in lottery scams, mystery shopping scams, work-at-home scams, etc.
The “employer,” who is in on the scam, will pretend to settle and send a check. The attorney is asked to take a fee and wire the rest to the scammer, usually overseas. Though funds might be available temporarily, the check turns out to be counterfeit and the attorney has to reimburse the bank for the full amount.