Management Assistance Program
Scams Targeting Lawyers
You may have been taught in the past that cashier's checks are just as good as cash. That is not the case today because forged cashier’s checks are often indistinguishable from real ones.
Oklahoma lawyers are being targeted – don’t let it happen to you. OBA MAP Director Jim Calloway says it's a new version of an old scam.
Calloway breaks it down so you know what to look out for:
- You receive an unusual communication out of the blue where someone has decided to hire your law firm. Often it is for something that your firm doesn't even normally handle. But they offer a flat fee of $10,000 or more.
- The criminals send you a large cashier's check for your fee. Other variations on the theme include large cashier’s checks to purchase equipment.
- The deal somehow goes bad; the equipment was sold to another buyer, or the party whose suit you were going to defend dismisses the suit.
- The “client” is sorry for the trouble and says while you need to return the money promptly, you should keep $5,000 or $10,000 for your trouble when you often have done little or no work. The lawyers wire the balance back.
- A week or so later, the law firm gets a notice that their trust account is overdrawn because the initial huge cashier's check was a forgery and bounced. It takes a while to catch this because it is a forgery on an actual account like a mortgage company clearinghouse account that has millions of dollars in it. So the person who reviews the checks coming in is the one who will ultimately catch it.
- The lawyer may not appreciate that cashier’s checks from strangers are not as good as cash today because of these scams and also doesn’t know it could take a while to discover a forged cashier's check in an often churning escrow account. It is rarely possible to reverse a wire transfer if done in a few hours. But by the 24-hour mark, that money will have been wired through several accounts and is gone for good. That could lead to financial difficulties and even disciplinary action. Don’t let this happen to you!
The FBI urges firms or victims of an internet scam to file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center.