Business loan collection fraud using the name Helen Polase
Date First Reported: August 2013
Primary Name Associated: Helen Polase
Description of Potential Fraud:
[Updated Oct 2013]
Five lawyers in four different provinces have notified us that they received an email from the purported Helen Polase 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.
In at least one case, a lawyer engaged in further communication with the fraudster. The lawyer then received an email from the purported debtor, Anthony Williams, acknowledging the debt. Williams promised to forward a cheque in partial payment (approximately $95,000 of the alleged $300,000 debt), suggesting that the lawyer deposit the cheque into his firm trust fund, hold back $5,000 by way of retainer, and issue a new cheque to Polase.
A cheque arrived by registered mail and the lawyer deposited it, but waited for it to clear before attempting to withdraw funds. The bank identified the cheque as counterfeit, and the lawyer reported the scam to the police, who began an investigation.
Here is the initial contact email and fake documentation sent by the fraudster to the lawyer:
From: Helen Polase [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: August-01-13 10:49 AM
Subject: Re: Assistance.
I am attaching the Loan Agreement Promissory Note that was reached between me and my friend Anthony Williams, who currently lives at 204 Wood Lane Fredericton, NB E3B 7N8. I loaned him the sum of $300.000.00 in May of 2011, 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 31st of May 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 check 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 protected]
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.