The Bar has been advised of at least two scams being perpetrated on lawyers involving a common set of facts. The lawyer is hired by an out of state client to assist it with collecting a debt from a local business debtor. The premise is that the creditor believes it might settle with the local debtor, but wants to get the case ready just in case. The amounts involved are in the low six figures. The lawyer is either hired by phone or email and may or may not insist on a written employment contract. A day or two after the lawyer agrees to represent the fraudulent client and before the lawyer contacts the debtor, an official bank check appears in the mail for the full amount of the collection. Many of the scams involve an official Citibank check (although any bank could be used in the scam).
Often, the mailed checks originate in Canada, even though the debtor is a local business. The envelopes containing the official bank check have Canadian postmarks and are sent via air mail. The lawyer is asked to deposit the check into his or her trust account. A few days letter, the lawyer is asked to wire the funds overseas due to an emergency and to remit the funds net of attorneys fees. The check eventually is returned as account closed, NSF, or for other reasons in a week or two. The lawyers trust account debited for the full amount. Since the funds were wired, the opportunity to retrieve the funds from an overseas bank account is virtually nonexistent. The Bar urges all lawyers to develop specific policies to insure trust account funds are protected at all times.So, fellow barristers, beware!