As you may have read in some of our recent blog entries, you should call around and do your research to make sure whoever is asking you for money really is who he or she says she is. In the legal profession, that’s called due diligence. However, giving that advice isn’t always as easy as taking it. Lawyers like to think of themselves as pretty sophisticated people (trust us, we know a few), but that still hasn’t stopped them from being the targets of some of the biggest scams out there.
Scammers are using sophisticated tricks to target elements of the legal profession that are comparable to any trade. Do you have membership fees for your gym, trade association, union, or even your local video-store? Well lawyers have membership fees to their state bar association, and scammers have had no problem shaking lawyers down for ‘unpaid’ membership fees. If someone calls or emails you asking you to pay an unpaid fee, look up the real number or email of the organization or business you have the membership with and ask them if you owe money. If you do, pay them directly. If you don’t, report the con-men who contacted you to the FTC.
Lawyers are also susceptible to fake fictitious client wire-fraud, surprisingly similar to the mystery shopper scam. A ‘client’ calls or emails and explains that they need a check transferred to them. Sometimes it is an alimony or child support payment, and other times it is a settlement check. The check will be delivered to the law firm, who will deposit it, take out the amount charged for their services, and then forward the remainder to the ‘client.’ All in a day’s work, right?
Wrong. Just like the mystery shopper scam, the scammers give you a check, tell you to keep some for yourself, and send the rest back. It turns out the original check was no good, and all that money you sent to them is coming out of your bank account. Whenever you deposit a check, make sure the funds are not only available, but have actually arrived from the bank issuing the check before spending it.
Theft of Services
Have you been scrounging the job boards, craigslist, and the classifieds for some gainful employment, only to be targeted by scammers? As the job market trudges on through the recession, more and more lawyers and professionals are right there with you. When you find a job that seems too good to be true, do your research and make sure that it is a real business. Whether it’s doing legal research on the commodities markets in Paraguay or stuffing envelopes, make sure you are actually going to get paid before continuing on with the work. A real employment contract means nothing from a fake company, so before signing up do your due diligence and Google it. For the envelope stuffing and survey answering scams, there have probably been hundreds of other people before you who have done the work in exchange for empty promises. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a website dedicated to outing these scammers and connecting victims with each other to fight against fraud?
We created Scambook to help people who have been swindled, cheated, or robbed. But as victims of any theft know, your money and property are not the only things taken from you. When a con-man or con-woman or con-company pulls a fast one on you, they also rob you of your trust in other people and your sense of security. They can also steal your own confidence and self-esteem, because when someone tricks you, they can leave you feeling, well, stupid.
Don’t. These savvy crooks pull every trick in the book to steal your money and leave you out to dry. Their methods can be sophisticated schemes with professional polish using the most modern technology available. Educate your friends and family members, and share your experience here to educate others. Use your due diligence and research any person or business you are not absolutely 100% sure is the real deal before sending them money. And, as you can see from the over $200,000,000 in scam losses reported here in the last few months, do not forget that you are not alone.