Check Scams That Target Lawyers: How Check Scams Work and How to Avoid a Loss by Bob Luttrell

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This article first appeared in OBA E-News - March 30, 2010.

Numbers of lawyers, and the general public, are being targeted with ascam that goes something like this: A message, usually e-mail, arrives requesting services or wanting to buy goods. The sender usually checks out in an Internet search. (Web sites aren’t that hard to set up.) At somepoint a check arrives in what appears to be a legitimate business trans-action. The check may be in response to a demand letter from a lawyer in the payment of a claim or as a retainer to pay for services in advance orfor the purchase price of a car. You get the picture. The check looks and feels like a real check, maybe even a cashier’s check. Usually, it purports to be issued by (or drawn on) a bank at a remote location with no local branches.

Almost immediately after the check arrives, there is a request to send part of the funds by wire transfer. The client may want the amount collected less fees. The client may have overpaid the retainer and want a refund. The car buyer may have paid for shipment and now says they have taken care of this expense directly and would like a refund.

Once the funds are wired, they are almost impossible to recover. UCC §4A-211. The wire is usually to an account in another country. And, in any event, the funds are typically again wired to another institution out of reach as soon as they hit the designated bank. So, the victim is left to hope that the check is “good.” It never is.

Article authored by McAfee & Taft attorney: Bob Luttrell.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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