Foreign scams have become sore sophisticated and continue to create issues for unsuspecting attorneys

04.03.14

OAMIC policyholders are receiving scam email requests from foreign entities or individuals to assist these hypothetical “clients” in collecting a debt.  The “client” will even be available to discuss the details by telephone so you will be able to talk to an actual person.  The current scam usually requires the attorney to receive or accept a “check” from the hypothetical debtor, a corporation or individual (which will match the name of a legitimate entity or individual), deposit the “check” in the attorney’s own bank account, deduct the attorney’s fee and wire the remainder from the attorney’s account to the “client.”  Another scenario, is the “client” wants to purchase real estate in your area, wires a “check” to cover the purchase and attorney fees, and then the “client” changes his/her mind and needs the money wired back minus the attorney fees.

The problem is it is all part of a scam.  The “check” is very frequently a fake check and when it is returned to the attorney’s bank as uncollectable, the bank then seeks to recover all advanced funds from the attorney’s account and to hold the attorney personally liable for any shortage.  Please do not wire money or write a check until the bank confirms the “check” has been “finally reconciled.”  These are the magic words not “processed” or “cleared” but “finally reconciled.”

The scams have involved architectural firms, textile mills, manufacturers of hardware items, child support payments and almost any imaginable scenario involving the collection of money owed.  Going online and examining the entity’s website can be tricky.  The websites look legitimate and in fact, may be legitimate.  However, the “client’s “ email or contact numbers will be slightly off and not match a legitimate corporation or individual.  Policyholders should also be mindful a charge-back by a bank to the attorney or law firm is NOT considered a covered claim if no actual clients incur a loss.

OAMIC has had several of these scams reported.  Thankfully, they did not result in horrific costs or angst to the innocent parties involved.