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Recently, the State Bar of Texas's blog was updated to reflect that Texas lawyers, like lawyers in every state, are still being targeted by really sophisticated email scammers. These scammers prey on a lawyer's greatest vulnerability: easy money.
Lawyers hungry for business are often the best prey for these scams, which are basically much more sophisticated Nigerian prince phishing schemes, and have been around for years. The scariest part is that these lawyer phishing scammers not only know how to use spellcheck, they're skilled at identity theft and forging docs too. So, even if a lawyer does their due diligence and researches the client online, everything will check out.
Below, you can read more about this scam and how to make sure you don't get fleeced.
Too Good of a Client to be True
These scammers pretty much are dangling fake money in front of lawyers and saying "Hey you lawyer that I just emailed out of the blue, you will barely have to work and you can make a whole lot more money than you're worth." Generally, the scammers steal a real business person's identity, and claim that another real business owes them money for a clear legal or contract violation, or as a result of a simple business deal that may not have even gone wrong. There will even be legitimate-looking documentation to back it up.
However, before the client's check even clears in your trust account, there is bound to be some emergency requiring you to cut a check back to the client, or pay for something electronically, or through some other abnormal means.
Lawyers actually fall for this scam because the scammers usually only stop short of actually kidnapping the people their pretending to be. Real looking documents will be prepared, real names will be used, real bank checks will be forged, sometimes even realistic, but fake, websites will even be set up.
How to Avoid Being Another Statistic
While lawyers are loathe to report being scammed and might just decide to take the hit, ensuring any client that comes in via the internet undergoes extra vetting is a good idea, particularly if they're eager to write you a check. If a client wants you to cut a check before their retainer check has cleared, then just say no, call your bank to make sure the check is real, and do a lot more vetting.
If you can look up the person by name in Google, the contact information you find publicly should match how they are contacting you. If not, you should put the public contact info you found to good use. Often, even though a phone number or email address might look the same when you receive the call or message, when you call the public number, you may reach a surprised person who has never heard of you.