It’s a real boost to the legal ego when a foreign company chooses you to handle a major transaction or litigation in the US. Even better, it’s a brand new client. And just to be safe, you google them and confirm they are a legit company.

I hate to burst the bubble folks, but it ain’t real. Here’s how it works: You get an email from someone (usually from a foreign country) who seeks a lawyer to assist with debt collection or a transaction and they your name from a bar association or our website. After a brief communication, your are informed that the adverse party has sent a settlement check or deposit. The unsuspecting lawyer then deposits the money and wires the proceeds to his “client,” only to later discover that the check was phony. Of course, the firm’s money that he just wired out is not.

These and other email and telephone scams (often involving wire transfer requests) are becoming more prevalent and lawyers — including at large firms — are falling prey to them all the time. Recently, a victimized lawyer lost his bid to shift responsibility to his bank. And bar associations opinions are starting to weigh in as well, suggesting lawyers may have ethical obligations to inform other clients if they are victimized.

Here are some red flags that will tell you whether an unsolicited email is a phony:

  • They come from what purport to be foreign companies (or individuals) seeking an attorney in the United States;
  • The names of the companies and individuals are legit — but the emails are sent from a gmail, yahoo or similar domain;
  • The emails identify no referral source;
  • They grammar be not well; and
  • They promise lots of money for little work.

If you receive one of these emails, you’re better off just deleting it.

For information on another scam that is making its rounds, please review the attached important tutorial.

Click here to view video.