Bad-cheque scams on family law matters targeting Ontario lawyers
Family law matters seem to be the new flavour of the month when it comes to bad-cheque scams. In the past few weeks Ontario lawyers have sent me almost 20 different emails from fraudsters seeking help on matters involving the collection spousal and/or child support.
One message in particular is making the rounds as I have had at least a dozen lawyers send me a copy of it in the last week alone. A copy of that message follows:
To: (lawyer’s personal email address)
From: (Most are from a yahoo.com.hk address, although a few were from other addresses)
Subject: Representation Services Needed.
My name is Linda Chen, a divorcee and a mother of two presently residing in the Republic of China with my two kids. I was formally married to Mr. Randy Chen who is resident is in the United States of America. My Former Husband owes my some money ($450,000.00) and I have tried severally before now to retrieve this money from him to no avail.
I recently informed him that I am in the process of acquiring your services as my Attorney of record to help me recover this money through the Law Courts by initiating legal proceedings against him. He has pleaded with me not to pursue this matter through the Law Courts and that he will be willing to make this payment to me through you (the Lawyer) so that you will stand as a witness.
I write therefore to seek your consent to represent me in this matter and should you be willing to take up this brief, provide me with your terms and conditions for my perusal. If these terms and conditions meets my expectation, I shall proceed to provide you with further details and inform my ex husband accordingly to deal with you.
I look forward to your prompt and favorable response.
Usually these types of messages are a reasonably obvious attempt at a fraud, and they don’t deserve a reply or acknowledgement. Remember that sending a reply to a spammer confirms your email address as a good one which in turn can encourage more spam to that address as spammers can sell lists of live addresses for more money.
However, I have had a few lawyers ask me how the handle these types messages where it is not immediately obvious whether the request for help is legitimate or not.
On the questionable ones I think more care is warranted, both in terms of checking to see if there is a real client there and to be sceptical and watch for red flags that will indicate if it is a fraud. If it looks like the email might be from a legitimate client, send a reply indicating that you can’t act unless your firm completes proper a client identification verification and is properly retained (include payment of a retainer). Where things don’t add up, asking for more details about the circumstances of the matter can also help you determine if it is legitimate or not (if pushed hard enough to explain things that don’t make sense fraudsters will disappear).
As we approach the holidays remember that in the past we have seen more attempted and successful counterfeit certified cheque or bank draft frauds around long weekends and other holidays. Fraudsters like to execute frauds around holiday times as law firm staff can be distracted and bank holidays mean the fraud won’t discovered as quickly.
Keep your guard up so that you don’t become a victim of bad cheque or bank draft fraud.
Remember to use the fraud prevention resources on the practicePRO Fraud Page (www.practicepro.ca/fraud) to help the lawyers and staff in your firm avoid being duped.
Cross posted on Slaw.ca