We have received a report of a scam from an attorney who received a request for assistance. She spoke on the phone to the proposed client, who asked that a buyer send the firm a 15 percent deposit from a purchase price to use as a retainer, that the firm bill their fees against it, and return the remainder to the client. Upon further searching, the attorney uncovered a scam.
The attorney who reported the scam gives more detail, "I was contacted with the Nic de Roerk scam (see the above attachment). They said the buyer of the floating dredger was Loadmaster Universal Rigs, Inc in Houston and said that was why they were contacting our Houston firm for assistance or referral to handle the sale agreement – so it was more targeted than the ‘in your jurisdiction’ scam emails. The Jan de Nul NV Group checks out as a legitimate Belgian company involved in dredging, the contact person (Nic de Roeck) seems to check out with what looks to be a company email, shows up on LinkedIn with a legitimate looking profile, and the buyer Loadmaster appears to check out as a company who would buy a dredger. The ‘client’ says that Loadmaster is represented by a ‘maritime broker’ out of Atlanta, Georgia named Horizon Eternity Insurance Brokers LLC. When I spoke to ‘Nic’ on the phone, he convincingly explained that JDN’s company policy was to have the buyer pay for all legal fees in connection with negotiating these sales and to put down a deposit on the sale as a form of ‘earnest money’ due to the international nature of the transaction, and asked if the buyer could send the deposit to us to hold and draw our fees against since it was local."
The attorney continues, "This raised my suspicions, especially since the deposit was huge compared to the small retainer we requested and small expected fees. And, when I shortly thereafter received an email from the ‘maritime broker’ that looked odd, I immediately suspected scam, researched the broker and learned that Horizon is actually a health insurer out of the United Arab Emirates. Although I had found him on LinkedIn, I also did a web search specifically for ‘Nic de Roeck’ and confirmed this scam. Fortunately, my red flags went up timely and we learned of the scam before getting caught up in this, but it’s well thought out and executed. And, because initial research makes the parties seem legitimate, it is likely to catch someone. Beware!"
If a scam has targeted you or your firm, please leave a comment below describing the scenario or tactics the scammer used.