The Florida Bar
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April 15, 2009
E-scam targets attorneys doing collections work

A new scam targeting Florida lawyers is showing up in e-mail inboxes — purportedly from China this time.

At least two lawyers have contacted the Bar about the fraud. Here is how it works. The lawyer receives e-mails from a company in China saying it wants help collecting a debt from a real company operating in Florida. Enclosed in the e-mails are contracts and other documents to make the request for legal assistance appear legitimate.

If the lawyer indicates the firm may take the case and asks for a retainer, the Chinese company — in one case using the name Kanen Electronics Co., in Guangdong, China — instead sends the firm a bogus cashier’s check in an amount greater than the asked-for retainer. The scammers then e-mail a request that the lawyer deposit the check, deduct their retainer, and send back to the bogus Chinese company the remaining funds.

According to , these cashier check scams often work because the FDIC requires banks to make money available from cashiers’ checks in one to five days. Consequently, if the initial bank does not detect the forgery, funds from checks that might not be good are often released into payees’ accounts long before the checks have been honored by their issuing banks. High quality forgeries can be bounced back and forth between banks for weeks before someone catches on to the checks’ being worthless.

Neither lawyer who alerted the Bar of the scam fell for the deception.

[Revised: 12-22-2014]