FBI Warns Of New Twist In Counterfeit Check Scam###

There’s been a new twist to an increasingly common scheme involving counterfeit checks targeting U.S. lawyers.

The FBI previously reported that scammers would send an unsolicited email from someone claiming to be overseas, and seek legal assistance in collecting payment from a person in the U.S. A check is sent to the law firm, and they are instructed to extract the retainer fee and wire the remainder to banks oversees. By the time the check is declared counterfeit, money is already wired overseas.

Scammers now claim to be an ex-wife from an Asian country claiming a pursuit of divorce settlement funds from her ex-husband in the U.S. The same scam ensues.

The following is the press release issued by the FBI, cautions lawyers against responding to unknown email solicitations:

The FBI continues to receive reports of counterfeit check schemes targeting U.S. law firms. As previously reported, scammers send 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.

Please view an additional public service announcement posted to the IC3 web site regarding a similar Asian extortion scheme Individuals who receive information pertaining to counterfeit check schemes are encouraged to file a complaint at the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Read more about Internet scams at Thinkglink.com, where you can find information regarding counterfeit checks involved in mystery shopping scams and scams involving Haitian relief funds.