Scams Continue to Target Texas Attorneys

Update: 10/18/13. We received a report today that the name of a San Antonio law firm is being used in a debt collection scam, where scammers apparently obtained files from a payday loan company. The scammers are calling people all over the country, saying they are with the law firm, and threatening the people with arrest if they do not immediately pay their debts. Law enforcement and the Secret Service in San Antonio are investigating the matter. 


9/17/13

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.

Scam scenarios include:

  • a request for help in collecting a divorce settlement from an ex-spouse
  • 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.

New IOLTA Scam Targeting Attorneys

Texas attorneys should be extra-vigilant regarding potential scams involving IOLTA accounts. We recently received reports of numerous email messages addressed to employees of National Bankruptcy Services bearing forged service@citibank.com return addresses and from Gil_Norris@NBSDefaultServices.com, claiming to represent the National Bankruptcy Services, LLC. Messages allege that the recipient’s IOLTA account has insufficient funds to pay an outstanding check and includes a .zip file attachment purportedly containing additional information and presumed to contain malware. 

There is a strong possibility that these messages are part of a broader phishing attack targeted to legal professionals. Email headers indicate that these messages were sent from several different email servers scattered across the globe.

The representative messages are as follows:

"Please see the attached Iolta report for 7448-1996.
We received a check request in the amount of $19,521.42 for the above referenced
file. However, the attached report reflects a $0 balance. At your earliest
convenience, please advise how this request is to be funded.
Thanks."

"Please see the attached Iolta report for 2794-3646. We received a check request in the amount of $19,480.81 for the above referenced file. However, the attached report reflects a $0 balance. At your earliest convenience, please advise how this request is to be funded."

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.

Scam scenarios include:

  • messages alleging that the recipient’s IOLTA account has insufficient funds to pay an outstanding check
  • a request for help in collecting a divorce settlement from an ex-spouse
  • 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.

Scam Emails Targeting Attorneys Making Their Rounds

From time to time, the State Bar receives notifications from attorneys that they've received scam emails. Here's the latest one that is circulating this week, which was reported by a lawyer as sent through the Find A Lawyer messaging system on the State Bar site:

Attention:Counsel, We the management of BP Global | BP Oil company mainly in Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG),United Kingdom require your legal representation for our delinquent customers We got your contact through your Bar Association and after going through your profile, we are of the convinced that you are qualified to provide the legal services we require. We are of the opinion that the ability to consolidate payments from your country will eradicate delays due to inter-continental monetary transaction between the united Kingdom and your country. We understand that a proper attorney client retainer (Agreement) will provide the necessary authorization and we are most inclined to commence talks as soon as possible. Your consideration of our request is highly anticipated. Jessica Johnston Human ResourceS Generalist Recruitment Section Twickenham,(UK). www.bp.com ............................................................ Copyright (c) 2013 BP Global | BP All Rights Reserved Cc:Escot Mollah Esmahill Group Manager BP Global Oil

Attorneys should be aware of scams of this type. For detailed information on scams targeting attorneys, see this article by State Bar ethics attorney Ellen Pitluk, which previously ran in shorter form in the Texas Bar Journal.

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New scam email targeting attorneys

On May 20, the State Bar received a call and an email from an attorney in McKinney about a scam email that he received on May 18. He also reported that there are posts from lawyers in California and Florida stating they have received identical inquiries and attachments.

The full scam email and attachments are below:

Thank you for your prompt response. Am living in Japan and Tomio Walton (ex-husband) lives in McKinney, Texas. Due to the time difference (+13hrs EST) it is a little bit difficult to determine the best time to call you. Following our divorce, we agreed under a negotiated settlement agreement which is incorporated, merged into and made part of the court decree for a onetime cash settlement of $557,000.00 USD for Family support (this includes child support, alimony and medical support). To his credit, he has paid me $208,000.00 USD from a total of $557,000.00 but still owing $349.000.00 USD and the due time for completion of payment is over. Thus, I request your legal counsel and representation to enforce the final judgment thereby compelling him to remit the balance owed to me. He is aware of my intention to seek legal actions. Attached is a copy of the separation agreement, and Final Judgment and I will be pleased to provide further information on this case on request. I desire to retain your law firm, please forward your firm's retainer fee agreement so that we can proceed. Thank you and have a pleasant day.

Regards, 

Rina Walton

Address: Fukuoka Sanwa Bldg. 3F, 3-19-21 Tenjin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka 810-0001

Attachment 1
Attachment 2
Attachment 3

Attorneys should be extra-vigilant for scams of this type. For detailed information on scams targeting attorneys, see this article by State Bar ethics attorney Ellen Pitluk, which previously ran in shorter form in the Texas Bar Journal

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New Scam Uses Texas Lawyer's Identity for Fake Website

The State Bar of Texas has learned that an apparent scam artist has assumed the identity of a Texas attorney who has not practiced in several years, and set up a fake law firm website using the attorney's maiden name, former office address, and portions of her professional biography.

The attorney was alerted to the scam after a legal finance firm contacted her at home with concerns about the  impersonator. Because the case is under investigation by the FBI and local law enforcement, we are withholding details on the matter. At this time we do not know how the scam artist is using or intends to use the fake website.

In recent years scams have targeted Texas attorneys with fraudulent checks and wire transfers in fake debt collection matters, and scammers have impersonated law firms and called members of the public attempting to collect debts.  This is the first time the State Bar of Texas has seen a fake website established in an attorney's name, and attorneys and the public should be vigilant about this new tactic.

If you have questions about the identity of a Texas lawyer, please search our official Find a Lawyer member directory or contact our Membership Department at (800)204-2222, Ext. 1383. If you are an attorney who believes your identity has been stolen, contact the nearest FBI office and local law enforcement.

Attorneys: Be extra-vigilant for scams targeting lawyers

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.

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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.

Fraud Alert: Con artists targeting lawyers with sophisticated scams

On March 2, the State Bar received a call from Houston lawyer Richard Merrill, who was targeted by an elaborate variation on an email scam that has targeted lawyers for some time. The email scams usually involve overseas criminals pushing bogus debt collection matters - if the scam succeeds, the targeted attorney deposits a fake cashier's check in trust and then disburses funds before the check clears (and is on the hook for the money).

Instead of email, Merrill was contacted directly by a Houston realtor who thought she was helping a London-based doctor buy a house in Houston. In fact she was dealing with a scam artist who had stolen the doctor's identity. Merrill offered his services and ultimately received a bogus cashier's check as a down payment for the house. Luckily for Merrill, his bank identified the check as fraudulent before it was deposited. Read Merrill's full account here.

The State Bar also heard from a Dallas firm which was listed in the return address field on about 300 bogus checks for $3,000 to $4,000 mailed from Fort Worth by scammers who asked their victims to send $500 in order for their checks to clear. The Bar also heard from a Dallas firm whose identity was stolen as part of a payday loan scam in which the scammer purported to be from the firm and attempting to collect a debt.

Attorneys should be extra-vigilant for scams of this type, and never issue a check from a trust account until deposited funds have been collected. Matters involving bank fraud are investigated by the Secret Service. If you are targeted, contact an office in your area.

For detailed information on the problem, see this article by State Bar ethics attorney Ellen Pitluk, which previously ran in shorter form in the Texas Bar Journal