Remembering TCPaul, 2016-2019

Scammers posing as potential clients

A lot of my colleagues and I have recently gotten website me cranky03/19/19
This has been going on as long as I've been in practice (com jd4hire03/19/19
I got scammers posing as lenders for secured transactions - dingbat03/19/19
"delaying is cause for a bar complaint, and the scammer know onehell03/19/19
Good warnings here. I've gotten those junk emails often for cranky03/20/19
When I worked at a large firm a member of the management com retard03/21/19
cranky (Mar 19, 2019 - 9:23 am)

A lot of my colleagues and I have recently gotten website messages and emails from scam artist pretending to be are people entitled to unpaid severance or entitled to a settlement due to sexual harassment. Years ago, my friends and I also would get messages from people claiming that their ex-husbands owed them a huge sum of money through a separation agreement. These people coincidentally are not located anywhere nearby, sometimes pretending to be in other countries or a far away state. It's a sophisticated scam where after you start representing the person, the other party will suddenly settle and you will get a counterfeit money order or check. After releasing the money to the client by wire then you find out that the original check or money order was no good. Don't be scammed and be very suspicious of anyone out of state who is unable to meet with you in person, or not willing to pay a consultation fee upfront.

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jd4hire (Mar 19, 2019 - 12:54 pm)

This has been going on as long as I've been in practice (coming up on 8 years). As mentioned, they have sophisticated sites where they might even have a bare bones website or have their location marked on google maps.

If you normally google the individual's name or phone number you can find some list that includes them on known scammers. I normally reply and note that I need a $100,000 up front fee and that I will not begin work until 6 months have passed and the fee has cleared. I also include a link to the website where I found their name as a known scammer. I then include a link to FBI Cyber Crimes and note that in an abundance of caution I will pass along their information to the FBI.

I don't get any response after that.

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dingbat (Mar 19, 2019 - 3:44 pm)

I got scammers posing as lenders for secured transactions - of course they're out of state and their borrower is in-state (usually a real company that knows nothing about this)

They agree to the retainer and will send a check for the retainer AND the sum they intend to lend, which should be put in escrow.

A few days later the bank will have made the funds available - legally they have to do that, even though the check hasn't cleared yet.
Then the scammers will say the deal fell through and ask you to wire the funds in escrow back - of course you can keep the fee. Being a good attorney, you send the funds right away (delaying is cause for a bar complaint, and the scammer knows this)

They immediately drain the funds close the account. A few days later your bank informs you the check was a fake, and the phantom funds disappear out of your account. If your balance would be less than zero, you'll need to pay them back.

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onehell (Mar 19, 2019 - 6:33 pm)

"delaying is cause for a bar complaint, and the scammer knows this"

I don't think the bar would be so unreasonable. My bar is always sending out reminders about this, and suggesting that people understand exactly what you said, which is that funds merely being made available (which will often happen very rapidly for a depositor who has a good track record with the bank) does not mean the check has cleared. It's weird but true, so much about fund availability has to do more with the identity of the depositor than the identity of whomever wrote the check.

A law firm should be able to have a policy that new clients' escrow checks will not be refunded for say, 2 weeks after deposit. I doubt any bar would have a problem with that. Your trust account is your client's money, it's true, but that doesn't turn you into a bank where people have to get money they're owed immediately. As long as you take only a reasonable time to refund, it should be fine, and waiting for a check to truly clear (as opposed to just "funds available") is clearly a reasonable time. Especially knowing that if it didn't ultimately clear they would effectively be taking the money from other clients.

Obviously the best prevention is to simply recognize these scams at the front-end. But in the event something slips through, almost all of the Nigerian check scams rest on the bedrock principal that banks can (and with regulation CC, often must) make funds available before they've actually presented the check to (and been paid by) the bank that the check was drawn on. If everyone just waited a couple of weeks then the whole scam evaporates.

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cranky (Mar 20, 2019 - 6:38 am)

Good warnings here. I've gotten those junk emails often for over a decade and they usually go straight to spam. But now the scammers have gotten more sophisticated, with fake documents they'll use to support their claims. Anyway, I wanted to get the word out in case some people haven't already heard these stories from their bar associations or malpractice carrier.

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retard (Mar 21, 2019 - 9:09 am)

When I worked at a large firm a member of the management committee got taken by the phantom retainer trick. It was a very huge deal.

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