The Florida Bar


November 2, 2012
Susannah Lyle;,
The Florida Bar

Halloween is over but fraudsters pretending to be attorneys are sadly lurking about.

Attorneys and members of the public need to be aware that con artists are using real Florida Bar attorneys' names and numbers in attempts to legitimatize fake transactions and dupe the public into handing over money. These latest schemes involve timeshares, structured settlements and sweepstakes.

In the timeshare case, a real Central Florida attorney was contacted by couples – after they had already given money to a man falsely claiming to be him. The scheme works by having a company contact a timeshare owner who had previously been trying to sell. The contact person says an attorney will call. When the pretend attorney rings them up, he asks for money to facilitate the sale. Once the money is sent, the fake attorney vanishes – and the tricked timeshare owners go looking for the real attorney to find out what happened.

In another scheme, a Florida Bar attorney working out of state was contacted by a company that buys structured settlements. The agent told the attorney that a woman claiming to be her had contacted the company seeking up-front money for a lawsuit settled with an insurance company. The pretender even had fake documents attesting to the lawsuit and the settlement offer.

A third scam involved another pretend attorney calling a woman and telling her she had won a sweepstakes. The fakester gave the name and Bar number of a South Florida attorney, and asked the woman to wire money to him before she could claim her winnings. At that point, the woman wisely hung up.

Members of the public should know that attorneys will not contact them soliciting upfront fees.

To verify that a solicitor is an attorney who is eligible to provide offered legal services, use the Find a Lawyer feature at (top right of the home page) and call the number on record for that attorney's office.

To report the fraud, call the Attorney General's fraud hotline at 1-866-966-7226.

Be it Halloween or not, con artists are always prowling about for new schemes. Both attorneys and the public should be vigilant against their efforts.

To learn more, read the story in The Florida Bar News.

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EDITORS: Please note The Florida Bar is not an association and "Association" is not part of our name. Proper reference is "The Florida Bar." Local bar organizations are properly termed "associations."

[Revised: 11-02-2012]