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Lawyer warns of scam artist who targets attorneys

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If someone calls and claims to be from The Florida Bar and asks for your credit card number to pay Bar membership fees, be careful the Bar doesn’t yet accept credit cards for annual fee payments and doesn’t collect fees via the phone.

Ray Rayder, a Sixth Judicial Circuit staff attorney, wants Bar members to get that message after someone apparently tried to scam him and his wife. His quick action apparently foiled the attempt.

Rayder had already been part of a problem caused by Bar computers, which last year sent out annual fee payment reminders to several members which accidentally doubled the amount owed.

That was straightened out, but Rayder agreed with his wife that any problem with Bar dues was to be immediately addressed.

On May 18, she got a call at home from a woman identifying herself as Cheryl Moss from the Bar, and she claimed that Rayder still owed $90 on his annual membership fees. She asked for a credit card number and Rayder’s wife complied, but with some doubts.

Fortunately Rayder called his wife right afterwards and she told him about the call. He contacted the Bar, confirmed there is no Cheryl Moss employed there and then the couple canceled the credit card.

“I guess I got lucky, coincidentally I called right after she did it,” Rayder said. “We filed a police report hoping it’s one of those stupid criminals and they could be traced. We’ll see if there’s a second chapter to this.”

His bank told him that because of his prompt action, no unauthorized charge had been made. The bank also recounted that there was a recent TV documentary aired in the Tampa Bay region that showed doctors being victimized by a similar scheme.

The caller also refused to give Rayder’s wife a confirmation number, but did give her a “donor” number to confirm the transaction, he said.

Mildred Wilson, director of the Bar’s Membership Records Department, which oversees annual membership fee payments, said Rayder did the right thing. She also said there are several things lawyers should know that would give away any attempts to deceive them.

The first is the Bar never collects membership fee money by phone; only written communications are used although Bar staff will answer questions when members call in.

Secondly, the Bar will not be equipped to accept membership fee payments by credit card until this year’s fee statements are mailed. And when that change occurs, Wilson said, payment will be made only using the Bar’s website and a secure, encrypted software method. Payments still will not be accepted or collected via phone.

Finally, Wilson said no one owes next year’s fees yet as the membership fee statements for the 2001-2002 Bar year have yet to be mailed.

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