There are so many variations of the same scam. Someone sends someone a check to deposit into a bank account and a portion of the funds is sent to the scam artist. Several weeks ago, I was surprised to receive an email from someone stating that he was looking for an attorney to collect on some delinquent accounts for his company. I immediately searched the internet for the name of the company and discovered that some lawyers have fallen victim to a scam by agreeing to represent the company and accepting a retainer.
Apparently, the retainer was large and required the attorney to refund a portion of the money. Another variation was when the attorney received a check after supposedly collecting on the bad debt. The attorney was to deduct his fees out of the check and send the remaining money to the client. In either case, the check was ultimately discovered to be no good.
Although some attorneys discovered the scam before it was too late, I was surprised to learn that at least one did actually lose money as a result of it. As attorneys, we often try to be careful about who we represent and we inform our clients to read everything they sign. So, I was surprised that an attorney would agree to represent a foreign client without verifying everything. The scam artists are becoming craftier; they have even started using the names of legitimate businesses. However, a huge red flag needs to go up anytime someone asks you to deposit money into an account and send some of the money back to him or her. This is especially true when dealing with large sums of money.
Many people don’t realize that a bad check can clear temporarily. If it takes a bank a month to discover that a check was forged, then you will have to return any of the funds that you spent. There are also fake money orders and cashier’s checks so you still have to be careful with those also. It’s better to just avoid that seems like a scam whether it’s someone trying to transfer a relatives money, a Western Union secret shopping job, or an foreign client with a large retainer.