California Bar Journal
CBJ - July 2009 #01.
E-mail scams continue to successfully target lawyers
California Bar Journal July 2009 E-mail scams continue to successfully target lawyersBy Diane CurtisStaff WriterCarmichael attorney Jana Aagaard got an unplanned lesson in Internet scams when she learned that someone was using her name to solicit business for a bogus legal client. Her persistent electronic sleuthing resulted in what looks like a happy ending: the culprit was found and the URL that contained her name was suspended. But domain names and access to them are vast, so Aagaard hopes her experience may serve as a cautionary tale to others.
Internet scams are on the rise, and California banks, legal groups and the State Bar report receiving growing numbers of complaints from lawyers about the electronic solicitations. The State Bar also issued an alert to lawyers about the proliferation of lawyer-aimed scams. California lawyers who answered the scammers have lost from $75,000 up to $2 million, bank officers say.
Often, the scammers use the name of a real attorney to make a phony referral to another attorney with the idea of ultimately collecting a hefty sum from the attorney's own bank account. Typically, an attorney is asked to collect a debt, receives an authentic-looking check and is asked to deposit it, subtract his or her retainer and then send the rest to the "client." Too late, the attorney finds out that the check is no good. Aagaard wasn't specifically targeted for her money, but her good name was used to try to lure in other attorneys.
"Know who you're doing business with," advises State Bar President Holly Fujie. "If you deposit a check for $500,000, you had better have a clear idea where that money is coming from. Attorneys should be the last people to fall for these scams," she adds. "Be careful."
For Aagaard, it all began the day after Memorial Day. She got a call from a New York lawyer who asked if his name meant anything to her. It didn't. "Well, I just got an e-mail from you," he said. Over the next couple of days, another half dozen lawyers called from several different states, asking basically the same question and informing her that her e-mail had said she was referring one of her clients, a South Korean company, to them.
"I knew right away it was fraud. It was theft. I was horrified,"...