Later this Fall, Nigerian Emmanuel Ekhator will be going on trial in the Federal District Court for Pennsylvania on charges that he stole more than 32 million dollars from lawyers using a simple, but effective scam against law firms that should know better. The way the scam works is that American law firms are contacted by people claiming they need representation collecting a lawsuit settlement check. The law firms that fall for this scam collect the settlement check in the form of a bank check, deposit the check in their firm’s escrow account, deduct their fee and wire the remainder to the “client.” Many of these scams have been traced to Nigeria and to Nigerians living in Canada as well as Japan and South Korea.
This scam works on the same basis as the mystery shopper scam where the victim receives a counterfeit check, deposits the check into his or her account and then sends some of the money from the check back to the scammer. The key is that a bank will give provisional credit for the check in the account of the victim after just a few days so it will appear that the check has been cleared, however, the check does not officially clear, or in the case of a counterfeit check not clear for a few weeks after which time the provisional credit is rescinded and the victim is left having wired good money of the victim to the scammer. The key to avoiding this scam is to contact the bank issuing the check deposited by phone to make sure that the check is legitimate and that there are funds to cover the check in that account. Further, do not send any funds in such a situation until the check you are given has fully cleared.