Why Legal counsel (collection) emails are always scams

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Gentle Giant

Giant Admin for a Day
Staff member
This is a new category of the fake check scam but these are still fake check scams with a new twist.

You might start with how to identify a scam email (which is here) if you don't know or aren't sure about whether or not you have a scam email. If you know that in addition to things like bad grammar, poor spelling, even poorer punctuation, the use of free email servers, etc. then that's good.

If you do not know about fake check scams or some of the reasons those are always fake you might read more at http://antifraudintl.org/showthread.php?t=3631.

What's the scam?
In this subforum you are going to run into a new variation on the fake check fraud. In the fake check scam you are asked to be a legal counsel[or] for a company. The object of this exercise, from the scammer/criminal's point of view, is to put a hot check in your hands, get you to wire money to Asia and then disappear before the check bounces and you get stuck with a fake check. You won't be hearing from your "client" after they have your money. Unless they want to steal more from you. And if you were a nice cooperative victim before, hey, why not?

1. I am a representative of the (ABC) Company in Asia.
No he/she isn't. He is a scammer/criminal. Most of them are probably working in Nigeria. They are know as "catchers" and unlike baseball they do not receive pitches, they make pitches, that is, they are looking for victims. Once you reply to them they will immediately pass you on to a higher level scammer who is probably not in Nigeria but will be the person who issues you a fake check.

2. I am a lawyer and I would like you to collect money for a client because I don't have time to.
No he/she isn't. He is a scammer/criminal. Again, the person sending you the original email is probably in Nigeria. He is a "catcher". His job is to find victims. If he was a real lawyer, did he offer to split fees with you? Did he ask for a finder's fee? Why not? A lawyer is going to turn down $25,000 for no work on his/her part? No lawyer i know is going to do that. Maybe he would offer you some other than a 50/50 split but still....a lawyer is giving away business? In what parallel universe?

3. We find it very cumbersome in receiving these payments....
Receiving payments is cumbersome? Since when? Most companies live to get paid. They get paid or they go out of business, unless they are very large banks in which case taxpayers will keep them afloat. If this is a company in business do they not know about paying for merchandise overseas? Do they know nothing about international trade? Scammers don't. If you don't know how to do international trade grab a Black's Law Dictionary (8th ed.) and check out "letter of credit" etc (see p. 923). This is how companies pay for merchandise in real life or they will use some similar form of payment method which guarantees payment for the manufacturer and a guarantees delivery for the purchaser. Payment with checks? Who has time to sit around and wait for checks to clear a bank? Real businesses don't.

4. "There have been cases in the past of clients with delinquent payments and we were incapacitated due to international legal boundaries to exert pressure on such clients or commence litigation in such cases."
Seriously, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Commence litigation? Most people know that is the absolute last thing you want to do. Scammers don't know that because they are criminals. That's why they write thing about "international legal boundaries" and being incapacitated.

5. We are providing one of our delinquent customers for your conflict check...
And there's usually the name of a company. Do you represent that "other company" or have you ever represented that other company in any litigation in which case you could not represent the scammer/criminal's "company"? Except you probably never did represent that other company, but even if you ever had, is there any pending litigation against that company? And is your firm on either end of that litigation?

6. "We assume that these cases are within your jurisdiction and regional boundaries..."
This has been written by someone who does not understand legal practice in the U.S. or Canada, and yes, some Canadian lawyers are being targeted in this scam format as well. As well as the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, most of Europe, and Asia too. In fact, if you are a lawyer, you are being targeted.

7. "So, please pardon my email correspondence, because of my poor written english,"
There's a reason for that and it has nothing to do with some kind of inferior educational situational in Asia. It does have a lot to do with the scammer/criminal's poor education background in Nigeria or wherever, or his lack of attendance at school.

8. We will offer you 10% of the outstanding debt for your effort.
10%? Would you handle bad debt collection for less than 25%? See if you can negotiate with the "company" up to 25%. I bet you can't. That isn't the way fake check scams work.

9. We are willing to pay a retainer fee.
They probably won't but if they actually send you money in the form of a check you ought to treat that one as a hot check too. They may offer to wire the retainer to you. That means you have to give them your bank information. You want to send that information to a criminal?

10. I have a retainer agreement from the Asian company.
Nice. That's as fake as the invoice in #5 above. And it's not a valid contract because of the element of fraud.

11. The debtor company is willing to pay the outstanding debt in full.
Yeah, amazing thing isn't that. A bad outstanding debt, you step into the picture and suddenly! the debtor willing to pay, in full, at once. Quite a coincidence.

12. So I wrote these guys and now I have a check.
Uh oh.

(a) Take a look at the check. Does it have the actual name of the company (debtor) on it? Does that information match up with what you know about the debtor? Did you check the debtor company's webpage? Did you call them to verify that they actually issued the check? Come to think of it, did you ever contact this company to see if they actually had an attorney of their own so you could negotiate the debt with the debtor company's attorney?

(b) Take a look at the debtor's bank information. Is the paying bank in the same state as the company? I ask this because what we have found out from people who contact us at this point in the scam is that the debtor company is in a state, California for example, but the check is written on a bank in another state, say, Iowa. Seriously. Anything wrong with that picture? Yeah, everything is wrong. Did you call that bank? Did you verify if that account is an active account or an actual account ? Did you even verify that the paying bank actually exists?

(c) The debtor is in the U.S. but I received a check and it has a Canadian stamp on it. Why is that?
Again, what we have found from people who are at this point in the scam is that they get a check from Canada. This is real simple. The fake check makers (criminals) are in Canada.

Wait, you said the catcher is in Nigeria.
Yes, and the fake check maker is in Canada. This is an international criminal enterprise we are talking about here not some stupid yahoo scammer boi in an internet cafe in Lagos trying to scam you for $100. You have a check for $500,000 (approximately). You need to act like that check is hot because it is. The best thing to do now is call the FBI or take the check to a U.S. Postal Inspector if you received the check in the mail. Remember, these guys want to steal money and the money they want to steal is yours.

13. I wired money to a bank account in Asia so this must be real.
I hope you think that when your bank calls and asks you why that gigantic check just bounced.

And congratulations, you have now been an accessory to international money laundering which is how this whole deal works. Well no, actually, you have been the victim of a crime. You send your money to Asia, it gets broken up and wired back to Canada and eventually some of it goes to that nice catcher in Nigeria. I told you this is a major international criminal enterprise.

14. A company owes my "client" money...
And look, the scammer/criminal sent you a nice invoice form. How convenient and how completely fake. This is a fake check scam, there's no outstanding debt.

And speaking of debt, then how long has it been outstanding? What steps have been taken to resolve the issue? Doesn't anyone offer payment terms any more? Are you asking these questions because if you aren't you should be.

Folks, these are questions you need to ask before you ever think of answering one of those emails because you are looking at a potential huge loss of your money (or your firm's). Between May-July 2009 U.S. attorneys paid out over $105,000,000 to criminals in this scam. The best thing to do when you get one of those emails, not if you get one, is to delete it. You are being targeted for a crime.

15. I am collecting a debt from a company in my jurisdiction but I'm not supposed to contact them.

Strange isn't it, not to mention that it probably violates ethics rules in your country/state/province. Remarkably, however, your client will be in constant communication with the debtor who will, amazingly, be overly excited about paying at least some of the debt because who would want to go to court against a super lawyer like you? This is when you get the fake check.

16. "We want to sue the debtor but it's a secret".
Shh. Don't tell anyone. It's a secret lawsuit. :rolleyes:

17. We are a huge company and we do large international deals so now we need your advice and counsel.
So, why, exactly? Didn't they use a lawyer(s) before in their previous deals? What happened to that lawyer? What happened to their local legal counsel? Good questions to ask yourself before you get a fake check.

18. We have a website so check us out. See? We're a real company.
a) Yes you did receive a link to a company's real website. Notice they have a domain. Notice the email you got is using a yahoo, hotmail, gmail, etc email account. So why is that? Scam? Yeah.

b) So you got a link to website but it looks suspicious. That could also be because it's a false website with content stolen from someone else's website. Hey these people steal millions of dollars and identities, why not content? It costs them nothing. Scam? Oh yeah. (Send us that false website so that it can die a painful but well-deserved death).

c) You have a website for a Chinese or Japanese company but there is no Chinese or Japanese language content. Why is that? Because the people who made that website have no Chinese or Japanese language skills. See also 18b above.

19. I keep asking them basic questions and they never answer them....
...because they have no clue as to what the answer is. "We want to file a copyright infringement suit!" "All right, in what country did you file your copyright?" Tick, tock, tick tock..... No answer to your basic question? Scam. Delete it.

20. So I'm writing to these people and trying to find out more about this scam.
And your billable hourly rate is $300 and you've made how much money and spent how much time on this conversation so far? Don't even waste your time with these people, counselor, not even for a moment. The second you suspect it's a scam, drop it. Remember, these people want to steal your money.


Staff member
It is from Fraud Aid I think.

Attorney / Collection Scam - Understanding the crime

It has been dubbed the "Attorney/Collection" scam and has extracted millions of dollars from law firms in the US & Canada. While started by one Nigerian criminal group in Toronto, there are now 3 additional "copycat" groups participating due to the success of the first group. These additional groups are operating out of the Toronto area and the UK.

The law firms are contacted first via email explaining that they wish to engage the law firm's services for collection of overdue accounts, most being larger than $420,000 each. Alternately, the firm receives a "referral" from another firm.

Once communications begin, the "debtor" somehow finds out about legal action being taken, contacts the law firm to tell them they will pay. The firm receives a counterfeit cashiers check via UPS or FedEx, most often drawn on CitiBank. To date, over $500,000,000 in counterfeit Citibank cashiers checks have been sent to attorneys.

The check is deposited in the law firm's trust account. Within a few days, when the bank provides the firm with a provisional loan for the value of the check and the firm mistakenly believes that the CFT has actually been made good, the law firm wires the "due" amount to the scammer's "company" which in reality is a money laundering account somewhere in Asia, where literally hundreds of accounts are set up for this purpose. Once the bank finally discovers the check is counterfeit, it holds the law firm responsible for the entire amount.

The Nashville Post confirmed that Bradley Arant Boult Cummings recently fell victim to the scheme, wiring in excess of $400,000 to the scammers' bank account, even after performing what turned out to be faulty diligence on their part and contacting a supposed "third party" to verify the funds. Reports of a "quick arrest" by the FBI have been confirmed to be false.
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