According to a report released yesterday by the FBI, a number of law firms have been victimized by a scam in which the law firm receives an email from an overseas business seeking to hire the law firm to collect debts owed to the overseas company. A standard retainer agreement is sent by the overseas company along with a certified check. The law firm is instructed to deduct its initial retainer costs and wire the remainder of the funds back to China, Korea, Ireland or Canada, typically. Of course, for regular scamicide readers, you have already guessed that the “certified check” was counterfeit and that even if the law firm waited the few days for the check to receive provisional credit from the bank where the law firm deposited the check, the check ultimately bounced and the money wired from the law firm to the overseas company is gone forever.
In another variation of this scam, the initial solicitation comes from a lawyer in another country seeking assistance with a collection. The scammers use the names of real attorneys so if the American law firm checks out the legitimacy of the foreign lawyer, it would appear to check out. Of course, if the American law firm actually called the foreign lawyer, they would learn that it was a scam.
The essence of this scam and many other scams is an overpayment to you of an apparently “certified check” where you are asked to send the diffference to the scammer. There is never a reason to accept an overpayment check. That is a red flag that there is a scam involved. If you do accept a certified check, always contact the issuing bank to make sure that the check is legitimate and even then, do not consider the transaction as being complete until the check has fully cleared and not just provisionally been cleared.