by Monica Goyal
If you are not a lawyer, you may not have heard of this fraud.
Generally, the purpose of the scheme is to persuade a lawyer to take them on as a client in a settlement case, and then steal their money.
Here is an example email:
“De: John Fischer
Fecha: Mon, 12 Sep 2011 15:09:41 +0000
Asunto: YOUR LEGAL ASSISTANCE IS NEEDED.
I need your legal assistance. I provided a friend of mine Mr Philip Anderson a business loan in the amount of $350,000. He needed this loan to complete an ongoing project he was handling in 2009. Mr Anderson is well based in your city and the loan was for 12 months and interest rate of 7.85 per cent. The capital and interest were supposed to be paid on February 4th, 2010 but Mr Anderson has only paid $50,000.
Please let me know if this fall within the scope of your practice so that I can provide you with the loan documents and any further information you need to know.
On the face of it, the email appears to be for a genuine legal matter. However, these fraudsters are smart and adept. They know the rules governing lawyer engagement of a client, and you really have to pay attention. For example, in Ontario, lawyers must follow certain “know your client” rules that require us to have proof of identification before we are retained. The fraudster may provide a valid passport or driver’s license. These individuals will agree to a retainer and will happily sign a retainer agreement. You may even get an authentic-looking cheque that you take to the bank. The bank will even accept this cheque, although the cheque will never clear.
Collection of the money owed is very easy. Not much later, maybe even that same day, you will receive the settlement funds described in the initial communication. This cheque will look authentic and sport the typical security features.
What the fraudsters hope is that the lawyer will deposit the cheque in their bank, then turns around and give them a cheque from the trust account. For those lawyers with a large trust fund, this will not be a problem, and may have been done in the past for other clients. Unfortunately, this time the client is simply seeking to steal your money. Soon the bank will discover the error, at which point the lawyer will realize they were the victim of a fraud.
I’m starting a list of emails and aliases used in this fraud scheme. If you know of other schemes or names used in the prospecting message, please leave a comment, and I will include the new name to the list.