The fake check scam is nothing new, and all kinds of consumers have been burned by it over the years. But now a new group of people have become its target - lawyers.
In the past, the scam has worked like this: a consumer would be contacted by email and recruited to handle money for a transaction. In some cases the scammer told victims they were collecting money for a charity, making the victim more likely to want to "help." But no matter now the scam was structured, the victim would always receive a check and be told to deposit it in his or her personal bank account. Then they would be instructed to wire a portion of the funds to the scammer.
Since the check was counterfeit, the bank would eventually discover there was no money backing it up and the victim, who had wired money to the scammer, would have to repay the bank that amount.
So, how are attorney's getting caught up in this scam? When you think about it, they make a perfect target.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood says the Mississippi Bar Association has recently alerted its members to be on the lookout for an email referral from someone saying that they have a collection matter or contract dispute and need a local attorney to handle.
They will establish a relationship and after a short period of time, the client will notify the attorney that they have resolved the matter and have instructed the debtor to issue a check payable to the attorney. The attorney is instructed by the client to deposit the money into his account, take his fees and then wire the balance to the client. The scam occurs when the attorney receives the check and deposits it into his bank account. The check is bogus and comes back unpaid and the attorney is liable for the funds.
"Local attorneys and law firms are urged to use extreme caution and exercise diligence when presented with a situation similar to the one described above," said Hood. "If you encounter a similar situation, verify the names and contact information provided to you and do not disburse the deposited funds until the bank on which the cashiers check is drawn clears the check."