Warning to Ontario Lawyers of an Email Scam
Burton Dustin knows fraud is “messed up, right?”
We received the following email on April 13th, 2016:
Reason of consultation: am in need of urgent legal assistance. I lent a family friend money and he has refused to pay back the money. I checked your profile and i found you are firm,reliable and capable of assisting me.
Below is my email address:
The email was suspicious because, among other reasons, it contained unverified compliments about our firm–we may be reliable and capable, but he cannot possibly determine that from our profile page. It was not only unverified but also unnecessary–it is not the potential client who must resort to flattery– it is the lawyer.
Fraud at work
The fraud works as follows: A scam-artist contacts an Ontario lawyer to help collect on a debt by writing a demand letter to the debtor. After the Ontario lawyer sends out a demand letter, the alleged debtor will send a cheque to the lawyer. The scam-artist will instruct the lawyer to deposit the debtor’s cheque in the lawyer’s trust account, deduct his or her fees, and then send the balance of the funds to the fraudster’s account, usually located overseas. After this is all done, the lawyer will discover that the debtor’s cheque is fraudulent and will be left with a shortfall in his or her trust account.
Back in 2012, a fraudster wrote us an email in which he claimed to be the CEO of a large media publisher in Japan (he used the name of a real company). He said he needed to collect $1,200,000.00 in connection with a breach of contract in Ontario with a reputable Canadian company. We did no legal work, but the fraudster told us that the debtor was so scared by us that the debtor agreed to pay the amount owing under the contract. We received a cheque for $650,000, which the fraudster instructed us to deposit in our trust account, deduct $10,000 for our “work,” and then send the balance to him. We, of course, did not attempt to deposit the cheque.
To prevent problems you should remember to always identify your client by obtaining and retaining the client’s full name, occupation, home address and telephone number, if applicable. If someone tries this fraud on you: