Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lawyers Scammed Over Email

Lately I've seen a lot of messages like these:
I need your legal help over a Settlement Agreement funds against me and my ex husband who resides in your jurisdiction.
$ $ $
I am Mrs. Sabah Halif a citizen of Kuwait but currently residing in the United Kingdom. I was married to late Mamuod Halif of blessed memory who was an Oil Explorer in Kuwait & Russia for twelve years before he died in the year 2000.reply for details
$ $ $
Dear Counsel, My name is Jennifer Wong. I am contacting your law firm with regards to a divorce settlement with my ex-husband Richard Wong who reside in you jurisdiction. We had an out of court agreement for him to pay me the amount of 550,450.00 at this time have only received the amount of 44,000.00. I am seeking the help of your law firm to collect the balance from him as he has agreed to pay me the money, but have been inconsistent with the date. I believe that with the help of your law firm he will be willing to pay in order to avoid litigation. I look forward to your response on this matter.Jennifer Wong.
I delete these quickly. Of course, I'm not practicing law, so I don't have to weigh whether there might really be a client opportunity wrapped up in a package that smells like a scam.

Why do the scammers keep blasting out these messages?

Because they get enough takers to make a lot of money.

Legal Technology News reports:
Despite repeated warnings from the FBI, law firms continue to fall for an old internet scam.
In the scam, the firm gets an e-mail requesting assistance with some form of debt collection, financial settlement, or real estate transaction. In some instances, the purported client negotiates with the law firm to take the matter to court. Before any lawsuits are filed, however, the law firm receives a large check from the alleged debtor, and the purported client instructs the firm to deposit the check, deduct its fee, and send the rest of the money to the client. The check turns out to be counterfeit and the firm is left holding the bag, usually for $100,000 or more.
According to the 2011 Internet Crime Report, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has received more than over 600 attorney collection scam complaints totaling more than $16 million in losses. The complaints started in 2007, rose to an annual high of 250 in 2010 and subsided to 167 in 2011, according to FBI spokesperson Jennifer Shearer. The IC3 report notes that in August 2011 a Nigerian court granted extradition to the U.S. of Emmanuel Ekhator, who allegedly defrauded U.S. law firms of more than $29 million. Ekhator will stand trial on the charges in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
Law Firm Flimflam Scam Continues, June 8, 2012.

The 2011 Internet Crime Report mentioned in the article is about all Internet crimes, not just the attorney scam, which is discussed on p. 16. The most common crimes (p. 10) are:
  • FBI-related Scams – Scams in which a criminal poses as the FBI to defraud victims.
  • Identity Theft – Unauthorized use of a victim’s personal identifying information to commit fraud or other crimes.
  • Advance Fee Fraud – Criminals convince victims to pay a fee to receive something of value, but do not deliver anything of value to the victim.
  • Non-Auction/Non-Delivery of Merchandise – Purchaser does not receive items purchased.
  • Overpayment Fraud – An incident in which the complainant receives an invalid monetary instrument with instructions to deposit it in a bank account and send excess funds or a percentage of the deposited money back to the sender.
One interesting stat: Washington is the tenth highest state in complaints per capita.

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