Commercial debt collection scam using the names Etsuko Suzuki and Lead Chemical
Date First Reported: December 2014
Primary Name Associated: Etsuko Suzuki
Description of Potential Fraud:
Firms in Ontario and Illinois notified us that they received an email from the purported Etsuko Suzuki of Lead Chemical looking to retain them with regards to a commercial debt collection.
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 to see other names associated with it. Our Fraud Fact Sheet lists the red flags of a bogus legal matter that is really a fraud.
Here is the initial email from the fraudster to the lawyer:
From: LEAD CHEMICAL Co Ltd [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Wednesday, November 19, 2014 5:21 AM
Subject: Collection Case
We need a litigation lawyer who can handle a collection case. Please let me know if you can be of assistance to me or If not a referral could be helpful.
Replying to the email brought this response:
Thank you for your swift response to my mail.
The Company has several deals sealed with us over the years past without any issues. They have affiliate in different companies as well as a parent company. So,we need a good lawyer to handle this matter urgently. If you do not your referral to another attorney will be appreciated. Like I stated in my previous email this is a collection case. This Company owes us to the tune of $1,303,590.00 (One Million Three Hundred and Three, Thousand Five Hundred and Ninety dollars). I will forward you all the purchase order and invoice concerning this transaction as soon as you agree to retain us.
we are in constant contact with them and even though they have promised to pay, I think the threat or possibility of litigation would serve as a catalyst to make them pay sooner rather than later.
We are prepared to pay your retainer fee for this service as soon as I get an engagement letter from your firm. I expect this to be a non-litigation collection from the Debtor, but I am prepared to litigate this matter if they are not ready to pay the balance owed.
Send me the engagement letter so that we can proceed with this issue with him. I want to also let you know that as an owner of a business, this debt has caused considerable strain on our operations. Time is of the essence for me now.
Sir, let me know how much your retainer will be for I am ready to retain your firm to help me with this very issues of mine. Please send me your retainer agreement or engagement letter at your earliest convenience. I am open to either an hourly or contingency fee basis. Please advice which works better for you.
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.
What can you do to help put a stop to the fraud attempt? You can simply stop replying to the fraudster’s emails or inform them that you suspect fraud and will not act on the matter (or will take no further actions on the matter). You can report the fraudsters email addresses to the email hosting company. If you have a fraudulent cheque you can destroy it or send it to the fraud department of the financial institution, which may wish to see it. In Canada, you can report the fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
We are often asked if it is worthwhile to report the fraud attempt to the police in the hopes of helping catch the fraudsters. You can certainly report the fraud to your local or federal law enforcement agencies, but unfortunately it is often difficult, expensive and time consuming for them to attempt to shut down these online fraud perpetrators (though there are some successes).
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.
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.