Attorneys are generally a pretty savvy bunch, or at least we would like to think so. However, there are increasing numbers of attorneys who are being scammed on the Internet, by an increasingly sophisticated set of scam artists. The FBI has issued press releases in a number of states warning about this specialized fraud. In November of last year, six people were indicted in in the Middle District of Pennsylvania in a $32 million attorney Internet scam. The victims included 80 lawyers in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Alabama and Georgia. Lawyers in Texas, California, Montana, Utah and Idaho have all fallen prey to these scams. Most of the scams involve e-mail solicitation for help in a divorce or collections matter. The attorney receives a certified check for his services, but the check is greater than the retainer requested (there are a number of variations, but most include a check received from the “client”). The attorneydeposits the check in his/her account and returns the excess portion to the “client.” Only later does the attorney learn the check was fake. Unfortunately for the attorney, the bank does not care that the check the attorney received was fake and will demand funds for the check sent to the “client.”The FBI warns attorneys: “All Internet users need to be cautious when they receive unsolicited e-mails. Law firms are advised to conduct as much due diligence as possible before engaging in transactions with parties who are handling their business solely via e-mail, particularly those parties claiming to reside overseas.” As always, malpractice avoidance is practiced by meeting your clients. If you cannot meet your clients, be very wary of the cases you accept.
FBI warning can be found here: http://dallas.fbi.gov/pressrel/pressrel10/dl060210.htm
For information on the Middle District indictment see: http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/six_indicted_in_32m_internet_collection_scam_that_snagged_80_lawyers/–Josh J.T. Byrne, Esquire