Bad enough that they have to put up with a plethora of bad lawyer jokes. But now, adding to the trials of being a lawyer (did I mention bad puns?) the FBI’s Internet Crime Reporting Center at www.ic3.gov reports it continues to receive complaints of counterfeit check schemes targeting U.S. law firms.
How it works: You get an email from overseas, requesting legal representation in collecting a debt from third parties located in the U.S. Your firm will get a retainer agreement and a check payable to you. You just need to deposit the check, take out retainer fees, and wire the remaining funds to banks in China, Korea, Ireland, or Canada.
Savvy readers of this blog will recognize the above scenario as another variation on the popular “overpayment scheme.” In this scam, someone tells you a story to get you to accept a fake check and wire them your good money. By the time the bank comes back to you with the bad news, the scammers are long gone.
What to do: Never wire money to strangers. Never accept a check for more than the cost of goods or services. If you receive an email similar to the one described above, forward it to the FBI or the Department of Homeland Security.
Here’s another variation to watch out for: An attorney in another state emails you requesting assistance for a client who needs aid in collecting a debt from a company located in your state. (Even if the name of the referring attorney and the debtor company check out as legit, they have been used in the past fraudulently by scammers as part of the scheme.) Again, your firm will receive a signed retainer agreement and check payable to the law firm from the alleged debtor. Just deposit the check and wire the funds, minus all fees, to an overseas bank account.
Same song, different day: The check is fake and your firm’s out the money. Don’t fall for it!