[Updated Nov 2013]
45 Ontario lawyers have notified us that they received an email from the purported Dionne Edwards looking to retain them with regards to a breach of a business loan agreement.
This is a classic 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 debtor (who is part of the fraud). See our Confirmed Fraud Page for more of an explanation of how these frauds work and other names associated with it , and our Fraud Fact Sheet for a list the red flags of a bogus legal matter that is really a fraud.
Here is the initial contact email, sunsequent replies and fake documentation sent by the fraudster to the lawyer:
From: Dionne Edwards [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, September 26, 2013 8:51 PM
I was wondering if you would be able to assist me on a litigation case regarding a friend who has defaulted in paying back the money I loaned him last year. Please let me know if this is something you can assist me with.
Replying to the email brought this response:
Thank you so much for your quick response. I do not know how I can call you to set up an appointment or consultation due to the time differences between my location and yours. I am attaching the Loan Agreement that was reached in New York between me and my friend James Smith, who currently lives at 8 Adler Street Orangeville, ON L9W 5A3. I loaned him the sum of $200.000.00 in August of 2012, when he claimed his business was going through financial difficulties. He has been coming up with one reason or the other why he has not been able to pay me back the money since the due date of the loan which was the 6th of August 2013. I’m currently away from the States at the moment, in Asia on a business trip. Hence my seeking your assistance to help me collect my money from him. Also attached is the cheque I issued him for the loan. Forwarded below is the last email I received from him when I told him I was seeking the assistance of an attorney, to help me collect my money from him. I did not reply his email, because I do not believe a word from him anymore. Please do forward me your retainer agreement and your terms for my review, if this is something you can assist me with.
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 email@example.com.
If you suspect 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.
If you have been successfully duped, please immediately notify LAWPRO as there may be a claim against you.
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.