Update (4/25/2012): Today we received a report from a firm in Houston regarding a scam that has apparently targeted at least six law firms. Please see the comment from Ted Tredennick, below, for more information.
Update (11/15/2011): We have received reports of persons impersonating law firms in the Houston and Dallas areas. These persons are purporting to be from the law firms and are aggressively demanding payment on debts. If you encounter this situation or tactic please contact the White Collar Crime and Public Integrity Section of the Texas Attorney General's Office.
Update (9/6/2011): We received a report from a non-lawyer in Illinois who received a call from Michael Jones at (512)651-3635 who purported to be an investigator with the State Bar of Texas. He had the person's social security number and told her she had defaulted on an online loan, had to be in court the next day, and would be arrested if she did not pay $250.
Update (7/27/2011): At least two local bar associations report that scam artists are calling members and asking for dues payments. We have received reports from the Tarrant and Lubbock County bars.
The callers say they are "from the bar association" and that the attorney's bar card is expiring or that membership dues must be paid immediately. According to one report, the caller promised a free section membership with dues renewal.
These are not legitimate calls from any bar association. Do not provide credit card information if you are called and asked for a dues payment.
Texas attorneys should be extra-vigilant regarding potential scams involving fraudulent checks or wire transfers. These scams are increasing in sophistication, sometimes involving innocent third parties who seek legal services at the request of a scam artist.
The bottom line is this: Never issue a check from a trust account until deposited funds have been collected.
Recent scam scenarios include:
- unsolicited email requests for legal help collecting money or judgments, sometimes apparently coming from actual professionals whose identities have been stolen
- a real estate transaction for an overseas client (whose identity was stolen by a scam artist) involving an innocent third-party realtor
- impersonation of law firms by scam artists who issue bogus checks and attempt to charge a fee for the checks to clear
- a bogus check received by a law firm, purportedly for payment regarding representation of an inmate
- impersonation of a lawyer and law firm by a scammer "collecting debts" under the attorney's name
Again, be vigilant and do not disburse funds from your accounts until underlying funds have cleared your bank (and not simply been made “available”).
Cases involving bank fraud are investigated by the Secret Service. If you are targeted, contact an office in your area. Internet fraud should be reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
If a scam has targeted you or your firm, please leave a comment below describing the scenario or tactics the scammer used.