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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Dear Legal Scammers: I am on to you.

I have recently seen an influx of potential clients contacting me about representing them to help collect either a divorce settlement or enforce a contract.  Inevitably, all the contacts live outside the United States, but the person they're trying to collect from somehow lives in New York.  Here are some of the type of contacts I have received:

Dear Counsel,

My name is Miyoko Kazuo. I am contacting your firm in regards to a divorce settlement with my ex husband Naoki Kazuo who resides in your jurisdiction.

I am currently on assignment in S.Korea. We had an out of court agreement (Collaborative Law Agreement) for him to pay $648,450.00 plus legal fees. He has only paid me $148,000 since.

I am hereby seeking your firm`s assistance in collecting the balance from him.

He has agreed already to pay me the balance but it is my belief that a Law firm like yours is needed to help me collect/enforce payment from my ex-husband or litigate this matter if he fails to pay as promised.

Kindly Reply:
Your's truly, 

Just to show you how it's a scammer, this is a referral I received from someone who just made an inquiry on a website that was not specific to my practice:

Dear Attorney, I am Miyoko Kazuo,but now undergoing medical treatment in Korea I am contacting your law firm in regards to a divorce settlement with my ex-husband Naoki Kazuo who resides in your jurisdiction. We had out of court (Collaborative Law Agreement) for him to settle me with usd648,000 he only paid usd148,000 and has been proving extremely difficult to balance the shortfall. I am seeking your law firm`s legal assistance to help get the balance from him. He agreed already to pay the balance, but it is my belief that he will fail again, because he has been flip-flopping for more than a year ago and that is my reason to contact a Law firm like yours to help enforce him to comply with the rest payments. Please get hold of me at the earliest convenience to let me know your procedure and operational charges. kind regards, Miyoko.

 Next we have another South Korean on assignment:

Dear Counsel

My name is Isabella Minoru. I am contacting your firm in regards to a divorce settlement with my ex husband Franklin Minoru who resides in your jurisdiction.

I am currently on assignment in South Korea. We had an out of court agreement for him to pay $623,000,00 plus legal fees. He has only paid me $122,000.00 since.

I am hereby seeking your firm`s assistance in collecting the balance from him or litigate this matter if he fails to pay as promised because He has delayed for too long. If you are in the position to represent me at the moment kindly advice immediately.

Your's Truly,
Isabella Minoru.
So I brought this up to some of my coworkers downtown, and one of them sent me an article highlighting the prevalence of this.  You can find it here:  http://apps.americanbar.org/lpm/lpt/articles/pma07091.shtml

Some highlights of the article:


What is Happening
A “bogus check scheme” seen across Canada and the United States has duped many unsuspecting lawyers. While each case has a slightly different fact scenario, there is a common theme. In these schemes, a lawyer is retained by a bogus client and receives funds into his or her trust account by way of a check or bank draft that appears legitimate.
Within days of receiving the funds and depositing them to the trust account, the lawyer pays out funds from the account before learning (sometimes many weeks later) that the funds were bogus, the check returned and his or her trust account debited.

In these cases, the fraudsters delayed confirmation that the check was bogus long enough to get the lawyer’s trust account money and abscond with it. They did it by changing the nine-digit MICR (magnetic ink character recognition) lines at the bottom of the check. This resulted in the check indicating that it was drawn on one particular bank, while the code recognized the check as being from another bank, thus creating a delay in the clearing process.


How to Protect Yourself
Similar and new scams are attempted daily. No area of practice is immune. To minimize the chance of being victimized you should be alert to:
  • Situations where little or no legal work is required, but a large sum of money is expected to flow into and out of your trust account;
  • A client who is prepared to pay higher than normal legal fees for what seems to be very little work;
  • Typos on bank drafts/checks;
  • Bank drafts/checks drawn on poor quality paper;
  • Spelling and/or grammar mistakes in emails sent to you by the company or individual asking for representation;
  • Evasive or inconsistent answers from prospective clients when they are asked to provide more information;
  • A client with no apparent connection to you, who compliments you on your “special expertise or qualifications.” Ask yourself why this client would want you to act for them; is it you, or your trust account they want? Don’t let flatteries from the client go to your head;
  • Rushed closings or transactions and a client who is pressuring you to do something that just doesn’t feel right. Don’t pay out funds too quickly and without doing all necessary investigations on your client and on the authenticity of funds provided to you;
  • Periods of time when there are banking holidays and when you are short staffed, e.g., between Christmas and New Years or before a long weekend. These are times when details may not be checked as closely, and also times when banks are closed; resulting in delays in the return of counterfeit checks and bank drafts
  • Check and keep envelopes when bank drafts and checks are received; in one British Columbia case a bank draft received by a law firm from what was purported to be a Canadian company came in an envelope from Romania; 
So guess what scammers...I'm on to your scheme.  Now please stop spamming my inbox with your requests for legal representation.  My attention is better spent on those who actually need it.  Thanks.

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