The red flags of an email scam
Many email scams are obvious due to poor spelling, bad grammar and/or completely untenable fact circumstances (e.g., multi-million dollar lottery wins or inheritances). However, some of the email-based frauds LAWPRO is seeing are extremely sophisticated and look like completely legitimate legal matters. The more sophisticated frauds have temporarily fooled new and experienced lawyers into working through file opening and initial stages of the matter before they recognized or determined they were the target of a fraud. And don’t be complacent – lawyers are being successfully duped by these frauds.
The common red flags that can indicate a matter is a fraud include:
- Generically addressed emails (e.g., “Dear attorney” or “Attention counsel”);
- Generically addressed emails sent to undisclosed recipients. This indicates that the message was BCC’d to you and dozens or hundreds of other lawyers;
- Emails where the sender’s email address and the displayed name for that address are different;
- Emails that request a reply be sent to a person or email address that is different from the sender’s name or email address;
- Use of the word “attorney” in the subject line or body of the message (At least for Canadian lawyers);
- Emails that give a referral source that wouldn’t have your name (e.g., a website that does not list you or a bar association that you are not a member of);
- Individuals using a personal email account from AOL, MSN, GMail or similar free email service who contact you to do work on behalf of a major corporation or business. Why aren’t they using a corporate email address? Note that they may use the name of a real person who does actually work for that corporation – crosscheck name and contact info on websites or by phone;
- Clients who insist that email is the only way to communicate due to time zone differences;
- Clients who renege or delay on a promised payment of a retainer. When the bad cheque payment from the ex-spouse or loan advance arrives they will ask you to take payment from it;
- Clients who, without question or hesitation, are willing to pay hourly rates, flat fees or contingency fees that are far higher than normal;
- Clients who insist on or who are not worried about shortcuts being taken;
- One or more delays in the promised payment or advance of funds. This is usually an attempt to create a sense of urgency to quickly disburse the funds when they finally do arrive;
- Debtors who seem over-anxious or who unexpectedly pay outstanding debts;
- The cheque or bank draft arrives from an address that doesn’t make sense, is in an envelope with a handwritten address and/or is without a covering letter;
- The payment or loan advance is not in the form you expected or requested (i.e., it is not a bank draft or it is not certified) and/or it is for an amount that is different than expected;
- The payor on the cheque or bank draft you receive doesn’t make sense given the type of payment (e.g., a payment of spousal support arrears by a cheque from corporation, charity or travel agency);
- Unexpected changed circumstances that give rise to reasons the client wants to wire funds off-shore to third party on urgent basis for reason not related to the legal matter you are handling (e.g., to pay medical expenses or buy furniture);
Check for the red flags listed above if you have any suspicions that the matter you are handling is a fraud. While there can be good explanations for some matters to have one or two of the above red flags, you should be extra cautious and careful on any matter that has any of the above red flags. Question your client if things don’t add up or don’t make sense – even the smallest things. Make sure the answers to any questions you ask satisfactorily address any concerns that you have. Lastly, if you aren’t 100 per cent comfortable that a transaction or matter you are handling is legitimate, terminate the retainer. Don’t let the persistent demands of an insistent client push you into something you are uncomfortable doing, no matter how sad or urgent the story is.
July 27, 2011 at 5:04 pm, Elaine M. Forbes McCallum said:
This alert is helpful.
However it reinforces my surprise at the statement recently in the O.R.s that the Law Society indicates that privilege attaches to unsolicited email. This would require one to read, and print unsolicited email from unknown sources.
Daily I get emails “attorney needed for collaborative law settlement” which I had been marking spam and deleting. I am now being told I need to log these for the unlikely event that they are legitimate and the other side turns up in my office.
I can not see any reason why anyone with a legitimate legal issue should not be required to make an appointment and attend at the office and why it is considered inappropriate to ignore anyone who sends an unsolicited email. Even if they are not a fraudster if they can not be bothered to put down their iphone or blackberry and focus for a half hour on their problem then the lawyer client relationship is doomed.
Of course I do not publish my email or put it on cards to prevent this sort of thing but it still seems to get picked up somehow anyway
(even though I am berated by opposing lawyers “to join the 21st century” and publish my email)
On one hand lawyers are being required to obtain picture Id from elderly ladies who no longer drive, have never had a passport and one has beein dealing with for decades while on the other hand there are apparently lawyers taking files from people who have not been referred to them by a credible source, they don’t know and have never met in person.
Right now I can hear the ladies in my office trying to talk a doctor who needs a document notarized that she has to sign her receipt because she is paying in cash. The lady is saying she doesn’t need a receipt. Of course because she is paying in cash she is considered to be suspicious…… Even though I know where she lives and where her husband works and what she and her husband and her child look like and she is a doctor.
It seems we are creating these problems for ourselves by focusing entirely on form and not substance. Get a copy of their licence good. Get to know the client — irrelevant. Or so it seems to be communicated to us.
December 19, 2011 at 1:56 pm, Mary Boyce said:
I agree 100% with Ms. Forbes McCallum. Who makes up these constantly proliferating, foolish rules? I can’t help thinking that it is someone without enough to do or without experience in life (and certainly life in a law office) or both.
December 12, 2013 at 8:24 am, Stuart Friedman said:
I am a U.S. lawyer, but I can’t help but agree that our so-called ethicists are partially responsible for creating vulnerabilities. My duty to promptly disburse client funds on requests pits me against one of the obvious responses which is to reserve a long term incubation period when you cannot be assured of the validity of payments.
Banks (at least in the U.S.) are beyond useless. I asked the question already knowing the response about how to verify that a check was not counterfeit and received a completely inaccurate response that once it cleared I was golden. You know that the employee would have lied about the response if called to the mat and more importantly the bank’s contract would allow them to deny the acts of their agent. I suspect a court would hold that it wasn’t there problem even in the face of knowledge.
What floored me in that situation (my check was good and I never had a problem) was the fact that when I asked the bank to help me out by putting an extended hold on the check and they refused. It would have been interesting because the bank took a “without recourse” endorsement from me and I know that they would have tried to say that they weren’t bound by it.
Ms. Forbes Callum’s responses points out the another problem. The Law Society’s/Bar Association adherence to antiquated procedures rejected by the rest of the business world makes us vulnerable to practices and higher business costs that other businesses have long jettisoned. I can’t speak to who makes these rules in Canada, but I think that these ethics boards should be required to have a designated number of members from small firms, who are computer literate, and have real case loads. I suspect that would stop people from suggesting that you have an ethical duty to save your spam.
I know this is a belated response, but the State Bar of Michigan just linked to this page.
August 28, 2015 at 9:51 am, Peter Maina said:
I am a Kenyan and someone I met online purporting to be from UK feels she duped me into sending 98 Dollars to a Rev Sr on mission to senegal who allegedly was her friend and had a gift package for me. Upon allegedly presenting the gift to DHL a cheque worth 800000 pounds was found on inspection. My online friend is Dr Peace Michell. I am confused .
August 28, 2015 at 10:33 am, TimLemieux said:
It sounds like a scam to get you to keep sending money.
February 24, 2016 at 11:49 am, Ismelda Maldonado said:
Can you please tell me if this is a scam?
Dear I M,
The management has reviewed your information and has decided that you be our Account Receivable agent in North America. Attached is the contract agreement (Memorandum of Understanding) with defines our working relationship for your review and signature.
Be informed that upon receipt of the signed contract agreement, we will notify our customers in the region of this development (i.e. an AR agent is available in their region for payment collection). Thus, all payments due to Seiko Industries Limited will be made payable to you for onward remittance to us prior our instructions.
Please do acknowledge receipt of this mail and return a signed copy of the contract agreement to proceed.
Seiko Industries Limited
2-6, Kita-Shinagawa 5-chome,
Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo 141-8688
Email: [email protected]
February 24, 2016 at 11:58 am, Tim Lemieux said:
It’s a scam.
February 24, 2016 at 1:16 pm, Ismelda Maldonado said:
We must first thank you for your reply to our previous mail. My name is Mr. Victor Choi, Director, Ineng Industrial Co, Ltd China.
Due to the sudden increase of our customer base in North / South America and Canada, upon this note we seek your assistance to stand as our company representative in any of these continents listed above. And your duty is to act as an intermediary between this company and our customers due for payment in North America. Note that, as our representative, you will receive 10% of whatever amount you clear for the company. everything will be arranged in coordinated manner to avoid any irregularity and subject to your satisfaction numeration will be mapped out on how you are to be paid for this service, if by weekly, monthly or by commission of any funds collected from our customers in your country on behalf of the company. upon receipt of your response to this email update of next step to follow will be sent to you as regards your acceptance to this proposal and the approval of the company to assign you as a legitimate representative of this great company, and know that memorandum of understanding will be entered between you and the company.
Find as attachment our PROPOSAL LETTER.
Mr. Victor Choi
March 16, 2017 at 5:21 pm, Wayne said:
I have, also, been approached by Mr Victor Choi. I have received an agreement and have been reluctant to continue. I, too, am looking for more information -to determine if this is a fraudster. My concern is as a result of my query into the web registration. The ineng-hktdc.org Domain Name is for sale. One would think that an established company would, at least, own its domain name.
April 08, 2017 at 6:02 pm, Jeff said:
I too was contacted my “Victor Choi” and upon doing some checking, I thought it was legitimate; now I have some serious concerns. Apparently, “Victor Choi” wants me to collect money from customers and then send portions of it to some “agent” in South Africa via Western Union and Money Gram – I would think a legitimate company would want all the money sent at one time. I’m a little concerned that by talking to this person I may have become entangled in some questionable activity. I’m not a business person and I have no idea if there may be some legitimate reason for a company to want large sums of money sent to them in smaller amounts through various sources at the same time, but it seems a little suspicious to me. Anyone have any advice on what I should do? (My wife jokingly suggested I accept the money and then just keep it lol)
June 30, 2017 at 12:22 pm, Matt said:
Please beware of Victor Choi. Do NOT fall for this!
Sample Email received:
Its nice to hear from you. I’m Victor Choi President/CEO Andon Health Co, Ltd. Regarding your conversation with our agent on LinkedIn. The job proposal simply means, we need a representative in your country, who can collect / receive payments from our customers who we’ve supplied goods, but are yet to make payment. Your job as our representative will be to establish contact with these customers in your country, via email or phone introducing yourself as our representative. We will provide you with the documents showing the transaction, the date and products supplied. This document ranges from the customer’s data sheet and invoice. The Customer Data sheet will have your information on it, which will be sent to the customer by the company before you make contact.
As to the second concern, the salary for company applicant is $7,000 USD monthly + 5% commission for every payment collected, while individual applicants receives $5,000 USD monthly + 5% commission for every payment collected on our behalf. If you end up getting this job, your first salary will be paid to you 31 days after signing the agreement document. Note that you must have good communication skills, credibility, A Valid ID to be able to do this job competently. You do not need any special training to begin.
To the Third concern, Andon Health was established in Tianjin, China in 1995, Andon designs and manufactures products for its OEM and ODM customers that make it simple to test, manage and share health information. Andon also focuses on design, development, production and sales of a variety of medical equipment, including; Endoscope, Gas cylinder, Proctoscope, Ophthalmoscope,Ventilator e.t.c. Andon’s production and development team is 100% focused on delivering OEM and ODM solutions for some of the largest (and smallest) brands in the world. Our factory in Tianjin employs 1500 workers, with 120 dedicated R&D engineers that are focused on finding new and innovative solutions for our partners.
Our reputation has allowed us to have a personal relationship with the LinkedIn professional business network. LinkedIn gives reputable companies like ours access to their professional business database to get professional contacts privately endorsed by LinkedIn itself, for the following purposes:
1. Job offers.
2. Product innovation
3. Sales and Supplies
4. Equipment testing Etc.
With this relationship we are able to connect with reputable individuals and companies throughout the world. For further proceeding in applying for the position, Representative/Account Receivable Agent for Andon Health Co, Ltd., in your region, please send us your details as shown below to enable our legal department draft out a Memorandum of Understanding to that effect and a copy will be forwarded to you as well for your perusal and signatory:
Company Name and Address: (If applying as a company)
Telephone / Direct mobile number:
Current Occupation / Position:
Thanks for your understanding and we look forward to a long and prosperous business relationship with you.
Andon Health Co., Ltd.
Email: [email protected]
June 30, 2017 at 12:33 pm, Matt said:
If you think even for a second it’s a fraudster, it is! My first inkling was the same and then my spouse said, give it a try! BAD idea. I was sent a fraudulent check, attempted to cash it and bank informed me they would put a hold on my account. It took nearly 2 weeks for the bank to unfreeze my account after proving my innocence. Victor Choi or whoever he is must be stopped at all accounts. If you know of any fraud reporting/monitoring service, please turn him in!!
October 29, 2017 at 8:32 pm, Deborah Foehr said:
Victor Choi contacted me to collect funds for him from clients who already have their technology equipment and are making regular payments by wire to pay off the remaining debt for said products Currently representing Intech Co LTD. has offered me 10 % of all payments collected plus $2,000 per month starting with the first wire deposit.