Firms in Ontario and Kansas notified us that they received an email from the purported Erik Liu Wenbo of Toyama Steel Co looking to retain them with regards to making a large commercial purchase.
This is a bad cheque scam that presents as legal matter requiring the assistance of a lawyer. In this scam lawyers will be duped into wiring real funds from their trust accounts after depositing a fake cheque received as payment from the purchaser (who is part of the fraud). See our Confirmed Fraud Page for more of an explanation of how these frauds work and to see other names associated with it. Our Fraud Fact Sheet lists the red flags of a bogus legal matter that is really a fraud.
Here is the initial contact email sent by the fraudster to the lawyer:
Date: Tue, Jan 27, 2015 at 4:37 AM
Subject: Business Litigation
Please advise if handle Business Litigation / breach of contract and do
let me know if your office is currently accepting new clients.
Mr Liu Wenbo
Toyama steel Co., Ltd
Suminoe-ku Osaka, Japan
Replying to the email brought this response:
Thank you for your promptly response. Attached is a copy of the sales contract, payment receipt for the deposit and our email correspondence with Fastenal Company. with regards to this transaction.
Following our request for a refund, they appealed to setup payment in 2 installments within a month interval, of which the first installment was paid on the 20th of November, 2014 in the amount of $497,500.00 after so much reminder and threat of involving a lawyer (payment receipt attached also). The balance was due in December, 2014 and since then, all our efforts to have them remit funds proved abortive. Detailed are all contained in our attached correspondence with Fastenal.
Total amount of goods ordered: $2,540,891.00
Initial deposit made to Fastenal (i.e. 50% of the total amount): $1,270,445.00
Amount refunded (on the 20th of November, 2013): $497,500.00
Balance amount due to Toyama steel Co., Ltd: $772,945.00
Prior to retaining you, please forward a copy of your retainer agreement for our review and signature. We wait to hear from you.
Toyama steel Co., Ltd
1-2-11 CHOME, NISHI-KU,
OSAKA, 550-0005, JAPAN
How to handle a real or suspected fraud
If you have been targeted by any of these frauds, please forward any of the emails and supporting documents that you have received to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are an Ontario lawyer who suspects you are acting on a matter that might be a fraud, call LAWPRO at 1-800-410-1013 (416-598-5899). We will talk you through the common fraud scenarios we are seeing and help you spot red flags that may indicate you are being duped. This will help you ask appropriate questions of your client to determine if the matter is legitimate or not. If the matter you are acting on turns out to be a fraud and there is a potential claim, we will work with you to prevent the fraud and minimize potential claims costs.
What can you do to help put a stop to the fraud attempt? You can simply stop replying to the fraudster’s emails or inform them that you suspect fraud and will not act on the matter (or will take no further actions on the matter). You can report the fraudsters email addresses to the email hosting company. If you have a fraudulent cheque you can destroy it or send it to the fraud department of the financial institution, which may wish to see it. In Canada, you can report the fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
We are often asked if it is worthwhile to report the fraud attempt to the police in the hopes of helping catch the fraudsters. You can certainly report the fraud to your local or federal law enforcement agencies, but unfortunately it is often difficult, expensive and time consuming for them to attempt to shut down these online fraud perpetrators (though there are some successes).
If you have been successfully duped, please immediately notify LAWPRO as there may be a claim against you. Instructions on how to report a claim are here.
For more immediate updates on fraud and claims prevention, subscribe to the email or RSS feed updates from LAWPRO’s AvoidAClaim blog.
Fraud Fact Sheet More fraud prevention information and resources are available on the practicePRO Fraud page, including the Fraud Fact Sheet, a handy reference for lawyers and law firm staff that describes the common frauds and the red flags that can help identify them.