The ABA Journal reported on Monday that two more law firms have fallen for an e-mail collection scam targeting lawyers:
Two law firms in Honolulu were scammed out of $500,000 in an e-mail scheme that’s apparently targeting the legal community.
During the past six weeks, six different law firms have been targeted, according to the FBI, which issued a warning today (PDF). Two of the six fell for the scheme and lost a total of $500,000.
The FBI reports that the scam begins with e-mail contact from a prospective client who is seeking legal representation in a civil matter, such as a divorce. The supposed client sends the law firm a cashier’s check for a retainer in an amount far exceeding the firm’s rate.
When the law firm responds that the client has overpaid, the client requests and the unsuspecting firm sends a wire transfer with the refund. It’s after the refund that duped firms learned that the cashier’s checks are counterfeit.
As I discussed last June, the Mississippi bar warned Mississippi lawyers about these scams last year. As far as I know, no Mississippi lawyers have fallen for the scam.
But I continue to receive several e-mails every week attempting to get me to fall for the scam. I estimate that I receive about five of these e-mails a week. If they were legitimate I could make a killing by focusing my practice on collecting debts for Asian companies.
Here is the text of an email that I received three times within minutes on Saturday:
BaiLi Hose Co.,Ltd
No.790 NingAn Road,Hengshui,
Hebei Province Hengshui Hebei
We the management of BaiLi Hose Co.,Ltd ,require your legal representation for our American Customers. BaiLi Hose Co.,Ltd, a manufacturer and supplier of chemical, we are been owed payment on a shipment that we made to a customer in America in June 2008 and now seeking advice and possible representation in litigation against the non-paying company.
We are of the opinion that the ability to consolidate payments from America will eradicate delays due to inter-continental monetary transaction between the Asia and America. We understand that a proper Attorney Client Retainer will provide the necessary authorization and we are most inclined to commence talks as soon as possible.
Your consideration of our request is highly anticipated and we look forward to your prompt response.
I also recall receiving the version of the scam e-mail claiming to be from a person seeking to collect on alimony or child support payments in “you state.” The scammers also bait the line by filling out the contact form on my blog.
Almost none of the e-mails are personalized, and are addressed to "counsel." At the top left where the recipients address should be listed, they list a bogus sender address instead. The scammers do not even go to the trouble of listing the state that I am in. I can probably expect to receive more of these e-mails now that Sid Salter has explained what a moron I am.
While I am not surprised that there have been unsuspecting lawyers who fell for the scam, it is surprising that the scam is still working given the publicity that it’s received in the legal community.