A woman who is on assignment in Hong Kong contacts your firm to procure her divorce settlement from her ex-husband. You agree to do so for a retainer of $20K. Her husband sends you a check for $500,000. You are instructed to wire her the money and keep your $20K. By the time you wire the money to your phony baloney client, you find out that the check was a fake and you're out $480K. Your client is no where to be found. Yes, more than one firm has fallen for this ingenious scam.
According to the FBI, law firms across the U.S. are getting hit with these counterfeit check schemes out of Korea, China, Ireland and Canada. With the rise in electronic communication in lieu of face-to-face encounters, it is not unusual for attorneys to accept work from clients in other states, even overseas, sight unseen. Authorities say they are difficult to investigate because they involve international perpetrators.I regularly represent clients that have contacted me via email, that I have never met in person. Technology has been helpful in eliminating the time wasted in face-to-face communications. Aside from that, I find it easier to sell myself to clients on the phone and via email, because I look young--which has always been held against me. Beware, solo practitioners and small law firms! This is the kind of scam that is not only humiliating, but costly. It's a crazy world we live in.