A Texas attorney contacted us to report he had received an email message believed to be part of a large collections scam targeting law firms across the U.S.
We are reprinting his warning below, with edits for style and brevity. The FBI encourages victims of debt collection wire fraud to report it to their local FBI office (www.fbi.gov) or the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov).
The FBI in February issued an advisory on organized crime groups targeting U.S.-based attorneys with debt collection wire fraud schemes. You can read the full advisory here.
From the attorney:
"I received an email that is a permutation of an email scam targeting attorney’s IOLTA accounts. There are two versions I am aware of: a family law version and a breach-of-contract/delivery version.
"In the family law version, a person in a foreign country claims to be divorced and is attempting to get a property settlement from his or her former spouse. In the breach-of-contract version, a foreign company claims to have not received a product for which it has already issued payment to the supplier. In both scenarios, the putative client will send a large, fraudulent cashier’s check. The scammer will then request the attorney wire funds from the attorney’s IOLTA account. The cashier’s check then fails to clear and the IOLTA account is drained.
"In this instance, the scammer used a real company known as Ferguson Enterprises."
The attorney called Ferguson’s chief security officer and was informed that Ferguson is not the only "debtor" company name used, as the scammers typically use an established, but not well-known, company within a 20-mile radius of the attorney’s office. The scammers tend to target small law firms of one or two attorneys, the attorney said.
A copy of the scam email received is below.
Dear Attorney [insert attorney name],
We appreciate you giving us a chance to discuss our case. First, we placed an order of some goods from Ferguson Enterprises, Inc. They gave us a price that our company was very comfortable with. We agreed to deal with them, We signed their sales contract and complied with all their terms. They requested we pay half of the total cost of goods and the other half when they have delivered. We did just as requested and till date not even one item was delivered. We reminded them that the time frame for delivery has elapsed, we also made them aware that we have run out of patience and want our money refunded. Till date, we have neither gotten any goods nor received our full money. We tried to be reasonable and resolve this issue amicably but our entire plea has landed on deaf ears. We have decided to put an end to it finally. We know we cannot do this alone again, which is why we need a reputable attorney like you to step in. Find below details of supplier for your conflict check.
Ferguson Enterprises, Inc.
1705 Wallace Dr Ste 112 Carrollton,
We want every dollar owed to our company refunded. They have taken us for granted and that we can`t take anymore. We are ready to proceed with litigation if the need should arise. Let us know the best way to have this issue tackled and we would comply as long as we get results. The loss this failed transaction has caused our company has become unbearable. we do countless transactions on a daily basis all over the world, we have demands of clients to meet , maintain the stability of our company and staff. This cannot be achieved if we fold our arms and accept losses like this. If we do, then in no time we will be ran out of business by our contenders. All relating documents are attached. We have raised some concerns and would like you to respond in detail in your next email.
Are they any foibles you see in this case? when the time comes for hearing, the distance gives us some concern. How can that be handled. ? How long have you practiced? How much is you fee. ? What should we expect from you. ? Any guarantees. ? If bankruptcy is filed what is our defense. ?
Kindly have your "Engagement Letter"/retainer fee arrangement sent for our perusal or please provide us with a referral if you cannot take our case.
A quick response would be most appreciated.
ATEM MEDICAL EQUIPMENTS LTD
3-33, Nakanoshima 6-chome Kita-ku,
Osaka, 530-0005, Japan
TEL:+(81) 43 467 2224
FAX: (852) 47 65 8425