Through December and early February several lawyers have reported receiving the below message from the purported Rika Takahashi. As of late March, a different message is being sent using Takahashi’s name – see below. And you can click here to view a transcript of a conversation between a California lawyer and the fraudster.
The initial contact message suggests a payment is owed further to a collaborative law agreement and it is identical to those used in previous fraud attempts we have seen by Kathy Cheung, Peggy Higashi, Beverly Kawashima, Jennifer Wong and Zaira Hoshiko.
Over the last several months, hundreds of lawyers from across North American have reported to us that they received various versions of these messages. The reports to us are the tip of the iceberg – clearly thousands are being targeted. These fraudsters will actively respond to communications, sign retainer agreements (but not pay retainers as promised), provided identity documents and other supporting documentation, including copies of the collaborative agreement, a payment agreement and ultimately a fake cheque or bank draft. See the above posts for samples of these documents. One Ontario lawyer was successfully duped by this fraud. For a more detailed description on how these bad cheque scams work see this earlier AvoidAClaim post.
The content of the initial contact message was as follows…
From: Rika Takahashi – email@example.com
Sent: Thursday, February 03, 2011 7:10 AM
Subject: Divorce Settlement Issue
My name is Rika Takahashi. I am contacting your firm in regards to a divorce settlement with my ex husband Landscott Takahashi who resides in your jurisdiction.
I am currently on assignment in S.Korea. We had an out of Court agreement (Collaborative Law Agreement) for him to pay $648,450.00 plus legal fees. He has only paid me $148,000 since.
I am hereby seeking your firm`s assistance in collecting the balance from him. He has agreed already to pay me the balance but it is my belief that a Law firm like yours is needed to help me collect/enforce payment from my ex-husband or litigate this matter if he fails to pay as promised.
On March 30, 2011 we heard from another lawyer who recieved this message from Takahashi (interesting that names of senders’ email addresses don’t match):
To (lawyer email address)
From: Yusuf S Saleh – firstname.lastname@example.org On Behalf Of Rika Inagaki – email@example.com
Sent: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 6:35 PM
Subject: Re: 2nd time i am emailing you
In need for your legal representation.
My name is Rita Takahashi,i wrote to your firm last week on my marraige problem with my ex-husband.pls let know if you can be of any assistance to me.
Click here to view a copy of the Takahashi “Final Decree of Divorce”
If you have been targeted by this fraud, please forward any of the emails you have received to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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If you are a LAWPRO insured, please call LAWPRO at 1-800-410-1013 (416-598-5899) if you suspect you are acting on a matter that appears like it might be a fraud. 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. In the event the matter you are acting is a fraud and there is a potential claim, we will work with you to prevent the fraud and minimize potential claims costs.
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.
Further fraud prevention information and resources are available on the practicePRO Fraud page (www.practicepro.ca/fraud), 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.