New Twist On Counterfeit Check Scheme Targeting U.S. Law Firms

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The FBI continues to receive reports of counterfeit check scheme targeting U.S. law firms. As previously reported scammers are sending e-mails to lawyers claiming to be overseas and seeking legal representation to collect delinquent payments from third parties in the U.S.

The law firm receives a retainer agreement, invoices reflecting the amount owed, and a check payable to the law firm. The firm is instructed to extract the retainer fee, including any other fees associated with the transaction, and wire the remaining funds to banks in Korea, China, Ireland, or Canada.

By the time the check is determined to be counterfeit, the funds have already been wired overseas.

In a new twist, the fraudulent client seeking legal representation is an ex-wife"on assignment" in an Asian country, and she claims to be pursuing a collection of divorce settlement monies from her ex-husband in the U.S.

The law firm agrees to represent the ex-wife, sends an e-mail to the ex-husband, and receives a "certified" check for the settlement via delivery service. The ex-wife instructs the firm to wire the funds, less the retainer fee, to an overseas bank account. When the scam
is executed successfully, the law firm wires the money before discovering the check is counterfeit.
All Internet users need to be cautious when they receive unsolicited e-mails. Law firms are advised to conduct as much due diligence as possible before engaging in transactions with parties who are handling their business solely via e-mail, particularly those parties claiming to reside overseas.

See public service announcement posted to the IC3 web site regarding a similar Asian extortion scheme 

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These are exactly the type of scams that inspired us to create our website. The main problem is that when you bring these counterfeit checks to the bank they will tell you that they are clear in 24 hours, and that the funds are available. This information then makes people feel save that the check is a real check, and they proceed with the transaction. It could take 10 business days or more for the check to be found as counterfeit, and by then the money has already been wired away.

I feel that the banks need to be more honest with the customers and tell them that the funds are available, but it could take 10 business days or more for them to know that the check is legitimate or not. Most people would wait longer to move forward with the transaction if they had this information.

Shawn Mosch
Co-Founder of
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