Beware of Scams

A friend of mine almost got scammed by a fake potential client.  I just received an e-mail with the same M.O.  I’m waiting for a call back from the state bar to see how I can alert other lawyers.  In the meantime, posting it here is the best I can do.

Have you heard of the secret shopper scam?  Well, this is the same thing, except with more money at stake.  Here’s roughly how it goes:

You get an email from a person, often from Australia or the UK, requesting help with collecting money they’re owed by a company in your state.

If you respond, then the PC (potential client) will send you an invoice, a string of e-mails between the PC and the debtor, and a request for all sorts of additional information like how long you’ve been practicing, how you’d go about collecting this money, what the client’s responsibilities would be, etc.

Once you reply to that, they will tell you that the debtor, upon learning that a lawyer was involved, suddenly coughed up the money.  The debtor sends the money in certified funds directly to the lawyer (who may or may not have formally accepted the engagement).

The PC then tells the lawyer that they owe someone ELSE money and asks if the lawyer would just deduct his or her fees from the check and forward the rest to the PC’s creditor “as soon as possible” because the PC is in hot water with its own creditor.

The lawyer deposits the debtor’s check and immediately writes out another check to send to PC’s creditor.

About a week later, the bank discovers that the original check from the PC’s debtor was fake.  At this point the lawyer’s own money is gone and the certified check isn’t traceable to any actual company.

My friend missed getting scammed only because the bank teller happened to notice the check looked “a little off.”  The teller took the check to the branch manager who investigated further and found out it was phony.

Be careful out there.