These days, internet scams directed at unwary consumers are rampant. However, as our firm recently discovered, there are carefully crafted schemes directed at lawyers as well. In the interest of alerting our peers as well as administering some internet justice, we decided to provide the below story.
The other day, one of the associates at our firm was contacted by a “Liu Wenbo” with the following inquiry:
Please advise if your office is currently accepting clients for a possible breach of contract case.
Interested, but highly skeptical, our offices responded to this inquiry stating that we’re always open to taking new cases but that we’d need some more information. Thereafter, the supposed Liu Wenbo responded with a detailed synopsis of his breach of contract claim. In particular, he alleged that his company, Toyama steel Co., Ltd. (which is located in Japan) entered into a sales contract to buy goods from Fastenal Company, a business in Brooklyn, New York. Once Toyama made an initial deposit of 50%, it never received the purchased goods from Fastenal. Thereafter, “Liu Wenbo” explained that his company suffered “so must loss” and they are ready to “proceed with litigation if the need should arise.” The email concluded with an array of questions and a request for us to quickly respond with an assessment of the case.
After review of “Liu Wenbo’s” follow up email, the initial skepticism transformed into severe apprehension. We immediately researched the names “Liu Wenbo” and “Toyama steel Co” and found an alarming article on avoidaclaim.com. This post confirmed our concerns that this seemingly innocent request for attorney representation was actually a complete hoax. What surprised us even more was the comprehensiveness of these types of scams; apparently, these fraudsters will discuss details of the case over phone or in person, sign retainers and provide all documentation requested by attorneys. In fact, the counterfeit documents used by these imposters are so good they’ve fooled bank staff in the past!
The way the scam works is the lawyer will be sent a bad check that is intentionally much higher than what the attorney’s fees are; thereafter, when the attorney wires the balance back to the fake client, the attorney loses the amount he transfers. These emails always seem like legitimate legal matters and attorneys must be cautious not to get deceived by these ruthless criminals. Attorneys must utilize the utmost diligence when receiving new clients – do your research and don’t get swindled!