Update 12/2/22: We received a report of another scam. An attorney received an email from her online profile on texasbar.com coming from a Gmail account that read: “I send you 700.00 dollars and you said that I can get 60,000 in a grant and it’s been eight hours. Haven’t seen nothing yet. I guess I have to call your law firm.” The attorney said later that day, she received a call from the scammer on her personal cell phone. The scammer said he spoke to the attorney several times the day before (November 27). The attorney told the scammer that he did not speak to the attorney and that the scammer had reached the attorney’s personal cell. To this, the scammer’s response was, “Sorry, thank you, my mistake.” He immediately hung up. The attorney said she is not sure how the caller obtained her phone number. The scammer’s phone number was 210-584-0452 and caller ID showed the scammer’s name as Kenneth Lewis. The attorney described the incident as “a little unnerving.” She believes the scammer was attempting to impersonate her.
Update 6/28/22: We received reports of two more scams. Scammers are emailing attorneys through their online profiles on texasbar.com as phishing attempts. One targeted attorney received an email that states,”Hi, I work with MCJ ASSETS, LLC. We are a new surplus funds business wanting to operate in Galveston County. We have all legal documents, sales tax, and clients ready! We will like to work with you. If you’re interested we will like to run ALL excess proceeds recoveries through you, which means constant business! We will like to offer 10% of our profit from the recoveries. We will have all the documents completed. All we need is you to look over the documents and file the claim.”
Another attorney reported an attempted scam on them and their firm in what appears to be an elaborate scheme. The attorney was contacted by “Mateo Santiago” of Four Tech Intelligence in Mexico. The original email said, “Hi There. I want to Inquire if your firm specializes in IP cases. Our corporation is seeking an attorney in your state who can represent us in a license infringement matter by a business partner of the corporation. Contact me if this is your area of expertise or if you can make a referral. Thanks.” The scammer claimed they had been doing business with a company named HBS Systems Inc. in Richardson (which the attorney called and verified is a real company), that HBS had violated a copyright on some software, had admitted to this, and had settled on $2.9 million as a settlement. The attorney was to write a demand letter, accept the payment in their bank account, and receive 5% of the proceeds. The attorney had sent the company their standard engagement agreement to sign, requested a retainer check, and gave them wiring instructions to their IOLTA account. In response, they received this email. The referenced “Bar Code Integrators” in the email appears to be another company they tried to scam. After the attorney received that email, they called HBS and spoke to someone in their accounting department and said they thought they were being scammed but were trying to confirm. They asked if they had done any business with a Mexican company named Four Tech Intelligence and asked if they owed them $2.9 million. A person there confirmed this had to be a scam and also said they knew that the CEO of HBS had received other scams, they had turned away all but one, and that the one was difficult to get out of.
Update 6/17/22: We received a report of another scam. A Texas attorney received an email from someone claiming to be representing a company and needing the attorney’s legal help to draft a sales and purchase agreement for an excavator. The person said they had already negotiated and agreed to sell the excavator to a buyer residing in the attorney’s state, which included the insurance cost, shipping, and handling cost. They said the buyer wanted the agreement to be governed by the laws of their state and sent details and attachments about the excavator and the agreed terms by both parties for the attorney’s review. The person said they came across the attorney’s website via online search and asked them to advise on their rate and retainer fee and to email their engagement letter for the person’s review and signature. The attachments they included appear very real. The attorney checked with the supposed buyer mentioned in the email, and they have no knowledge of the seller and said that there is not any such deal in the works. The attorney realized this is a scam.
Update 6/10/2022: We received a report of another scam. An attorney was referred a potential new client by another attorney who was called by that client about an employment issue. The client was claiming that he had entered a settlement agreement with a company because of a wrongful termination. The claim was he was asked by his supervisor to falsify some accounting records. He refused and was fired as a result. After blowing the whistle to HR, there was supposedly a settlement agreement reached.
The attorney was initially skeptical so asked the client to email them a copy of the settlement agreement. They reviewed the settlement agreement and it looked legitimate, as if the attorney had drafted it themselves. It was also specific to Texas in that it had a Texas choice of law provision. The attorney then signed up the client. They asked the client, as they usually do, to send them any and all prior correspondence he had with his former employer regarding the matter. The client produced emails showing a chain of emails wherein he requested payment and was given reasons why payment was being delayed.
After receiving the signed contract of representation, the attorney sent the company a presentment letter for breach of contract via regular mail and certified mail with a return receipt requested. They also emailed a copy of the letter to the contact the client was interacting with at the company. Soon after, the attorney received an email apologizing for the delay in payment and that payment would be sent soon. This did not seem odd given a 30-day clock was put in place for purposes of attorney’s fees. The attorney requested that payment be sent as soon as possible.
When put together, there were a few signs that alerted the attorney that something was off. First, the payment was sent overnight via a certified check. Second, the client was being cc’ed on emails sent by the company contact. Third, the day the attorney received and deposited the check, the client emailed and texted them asking if they received the check and deposited it. The client seeming to be eager to be paid and yet not having answered the attorney’s calls really put everything together for them. The attorney then reached out to the company to independently verify if the check that was sent, their client, and the contact they had for the company were real. The attorney received a follow up email from the company that the check was a fake and that their client and the supposed contact at the company never worked for them.
The attorney did not issue any checks, they notified their bank, and they reported the incident to the Houston Division of the Secret Service that is also looking into the matter.
Update: 10/7/2021: We received a report of another scam. A Texas attorney received a request from an alleged Japanese company who wanted him to draft a contract and close a deal with a company in Dallas. The attorney gave him the retainer amount, and the scammer deposited money into the attorney’s bank account in excess of the retainer. Then the scammer asked him to refund the additional funds. The attorney talked to his bank and found out that it was a fraudulent transaction that was actually pulled from another bank account with the same bank. The bank is refunding the other bank customer and advised the attorney to stop all communication with the scammer. Now, the scammer is threatening to cause trouble for the attorney by contacting the State Bar and by saying he is not in compliance with IOLTA requirements. The scammer even contacted the attorney’s parents and called his mother by name.
The attorney has filed a report with the police department, and he is also filing a report with the FBI. He contacted the State Bar of Texas Chief Disciplinary Counsel’s Office and has spoken to the State Bar Membership Dept., who made a note on his record in case something comes up in the future. They also recommended that he update his IOLTA information with the Texas Access to Justice Foundation and that he call them to explain the situation, in case anything comes of it later.
Update: 8/27/2021: We received a report of another scam. Read the scam email the attorney received.
Update 8/26/2021: We received a report of another scam similar to the one we reported on June 18 involving someone posing as Jack Martin Zahn Batiste. Read the full description of the scam as reported by the attorney.
Update 8/10/2021: We received reports of two more scams. One Texas attorney reported a scam where they appear to have been targeted via the contact information from their Find a Lawyer profile on TexasBar.com. The scammer claimed, “I am purchasing a used excavator in your State and the purchase agreement requires your services, I want to know if you can provide closing service for this purchase.” Upon further review of the email exchange, the attorney determined this was a scam.
Another Texas attorney received what turned out to be a variation on the check/wire scam in which the scammer wants the attorney to wire settlement money to them before the check clears. The attorney received an email stating the scammer got fired after he reported being sexually harassed by his superior. He claimed he has a severance agreement with his company, which has failed to pay him, and he wants to sue for breach of contract. The attorney said that the scammer had done a convincing job up to a point, that the grammar used was much better than in many scam emails, and that the documents he sent were much more convincing at a glance. Then the scammer emailed the attorney that he had talked to the company, that he wanted the firm to wait one week, and then wanted the attorney to deduct their fees from whatever amount the company would forward to the firm. The attorney went back and reviewed the PDF severance agreement that the scammer had forwarded and some of his other documents and could see that the URLs used for the employer are not the same as the real company. Also one of the emails has hypertext that shows it going to the CEO of a different company rather than the company the scammer claims to work for, indicating that they have used different variations of the same scheme with other companies.
Update 8/4/2021: We received a report of another scam. A Texas solo attorney reported an attempted fraud scam. They received a notification from their lead generator through Lawyer.com for a potential personal injury case. The scammer stated that he works offshore out of state, that he had been mauled by a pit bull last year, that he and the “homeowner” had reached a settlement for $225k (with no insurance involved and for which the attorney was provided a release signed by the scammer and the “homeowner”), and that he needed a Texas attorney to finalize everything per their agreement. The attorney was to get the settlement checks and deposit them to their IOLTA (the first installment was $99,500) and then wire transfer the funds less their fee to him. At first the attorney thought everything appeared to be legitimate until they got the check via FedEx. It was made out to a completely unrelated party. The attorney made the “homeowner” aware, and the scammer quickly got another check to the attorney. The attorney’s gut was telling them something was off, and after doing some digging online, it became clear that there were several small details that were off on the check and the business that the check was drawn on. The attorney then received yet another check for the same amount but issued by a different bank. The attorney went to their bank, and the bank’s fraud department confirmed the checks are not real.
Update 6/18/2021: We received a report of two more scams that involve the same scheme. Two detectives contacted us regarding cases involving a timeshare fraud scheme. The fraudsters have set up bogus websites under two different attorney names, and people have sent them money. The attorney names they are using fraudulently are Jack Martin Zahn Batiste and David Hopkins Brown. The fake websites they are using are https://lawofficeofjackzahn.com/ and https://lawofficeofdavidhbrown.com/. When one detective contacted the number on the Jack Zahn website, the person who answered said the attorney was out of the office, but that they were “operating under his bar number.” We have informed both attorneys of this scheme being operated in their names, and they have contacted the detectives working the cases.
Update 6/4/2021: We received reports of two more scams. One was similar to the scam we reported on March 30th. A Texas attorney received an email purportedly from an out of country/out of state individual saying that he had obtained the attorney’s name through “the Bar Referral Services” and asked for help with a contact dispute. When the attorney asked for more information on the nature of the dispute, they received an email from “Buvant Construction Group LLC” stating that the dispute was with “Fastenal Company, United States” concerning an unfulfilled order. The attorney looked into “Buvant” and found that this is a known scam.
The other report was from an attorney who was the target of a farm equipment scam. Read the details about the scam from the attorney.
Update 3/30/2021: We received a report of another scam. A Texas attorney received two email scams. One of them was from a “student” who claimed they were referred to the attorney by the “Bar Referral Services.” The other was from someone who claimed they found the attorney on LinkedIn, but the attorney does not currently have a LinkedIn profile. View the scam emails.
Update 2/24/2021: We received a report of another scam. A Texas attorney received an email from someone claiming they hacked the attorney’s computer, installed a virus, had access to the attorney’s computer activity, and threatened to publish it. The scammer demanded bitcoin in order to resolve it. The attorney said to the best of their knowledge their system has not been compromised, and all of the statements made by the sender are untrue. View the scam email.
Update: 2/23/2021: We received a report of another scam. A Texas attorney received an email requesting their assistance in collecting money as the scammer’s client’s next of kin because the attorney has the same last name as the client. View the scam email.
Update: 2/8/2021: We received a report of another scam. A Texas attorney’s firm was contacted by an architect who claimed he was trying to collect a debt owed to him by a client, and he was seeking their legal representation. After agreeing to send the client a demand, the architect asked the attorney to hold off because the client was interested in paying before suit was filed. The client sent a cashier’s check directly to the firm and payable to the firm for a reduced amount. The architect asked the attorney to deposit the check into their account. He would next have the attorney take their fee out of the amount and send him the rest. The attorney let him know that they don’t accept those, wouldn’t be depositing the check, and asked that his friend wire the money to him directly. The architect wanted the attorney to deposit the check anyway, take out their retainer, and then wire him the rest. The attorney was suspicious and called the “client.” Before the attorney could get their third sentence in, the client stopped them and said it was a scam. The client had been contacted by several lawyers – some of whom caught on, but at least one of whom was scammed. The cashier’s check was of course bad. Therefore, the “architect” was trying to scam money from the attorney and their firm.
Update 12/4/2020: We received a report of another scam. This scam appears to be targeting Texas attorneys practicing employment law. An attorney received a scam email from someone claiming they needed the attorney’s help in receiving severance pay from their employer that they had been promised but never received. There are many indicators in the email and email attachments that the person sending it was not a legitimate potential client. These include the fact that no attorney seems to be involved, the email addresses in the alleged email communications are not correct, the alleged HR person is addressed by both first and last names, the documents contain many spacing and typo errors, the “settlement agreement” is a form that has been filled in, the stationery used is suspect, and the situation described is highly suspicious. Because so many things seemed questionable, the attorney searched for “severance pay scams” online and found that the Florida Bar and the Virginia Bar Association have issued warnings about such scams, and there are numerous articles about similar scams.
Update 9/30/2020: We received a report of another scam. A Texas attorney received a scam email they have seen several times before. In the scam, someone claims that they have a settlement and are looking for an attorney to take over the case. The attorney takes it over and then gets scammed out of money through a bogus wire transfer.
Update 8/19/2020: We received a report of another scam. A Texas attorney received a scam via fax. The fax claims to be from Williams T. Williams, a partner at George & Beaver Law in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The fax says that a client of theirs was a policy holder with a reputable bank, and the client has passed away. It says he is seeking a partnership with the attorney to claim the policy so they can split 90% of the $11, 030,900 between him and the attorney and donate the other 10% to charity. View a copy of the fax for more details.
Update 8/7/2020: We received notice from the Dallas Bar Association of another scam targeting Texas attorneys. They let us know that the following message went out to their members this morning: Please be aware of an email scam promoting a Gofundme account related to a sick child that is targeting some DBA members. This is NOT from the DBA. If you are questioning the validity of the email, check the email address to which you are replying to make sure it is a legitimate address.
Update 8/6/2020: We received a report of another scam. A Texas attorney was contacted by someone who is trying to run a bogus check scam on them. The scam usually starts with the scammer sending the attorney a bogus check to be deposited into the attorney’s IOLTA account, purportedly to allow the represented funds to be held in escrow pending a transaction. Then a day or so after the check is deposited, the scammer advises the attorney that the deal has been terminated, and the funds are requested to be returned by the attorney to the scammer. The original check does not clear and is dishonored.
The attorney had several email exchanges with the scammer, was sent the bogus check, and was also emailed (from a different email address) bogus purchase/sale and escrow agreement documents in an attempt to make the transaction appear to be legitimate. View copies of the emails and documents.
The attorney has called the credit union upon which the fraudulent cashier’s check has apparently been issued, and the credit union has confirmed that it is counterfeit. The attorney was told to expect a call from the credit union’s fraud department and will be sending them copies of the documents and emails received.
After the attorney looked into all of the information, they found the email address from which this scam is being run is prevalent in other instances and that the scammer has done this many times before.
Update 7/29/2020: We received a report of another scam. A law firm received an email phishing attempt via a contact form on their website from a person who said they were referred to their firm by “the attorney bar association.” They said that they were requesting legal assistance and asked if the firm handled “sales/purchase agreement.” The person called himself “DON Jim Harrison.” He provided his email address and phone number, and his IP address is in Nigeria. The firm filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and per its guidance also emailed a screen shot of the contact form to the Anti-Phishing Working Group at apwg.org.
Update 7/14/2020: We received reports of two more scams.
A Texas attorney was notified that someone was impersonating them. An Arizona resident was contacted by the Foreign Asset Control to inform him he was appointed a law firm to represent him in a matter in Mexico. This law firm included the Texas attorney, though the law firm does not exist. The person using the attorney’s information had the Arizona victim send him/her money as a part of that representation. All information provided to the Arizona victim was available online, including the attorney’s LinkedIn page photo and bar number.
A Texas attorney reported a scam involving a supposed loose acquaintance of the attorney who lives in Ireland. The attorney has not personally met the person. The acquaintance said he had a referral of his “boss” for a claim for breach of a license contract. The “boss,” a supposed Taiwan company, sent a “contract” and said that the licensee owed past due monies. The attorney sent an engagement letter to the Taiwan company and received a signature of the purported owner/president of the company, but a retainer was not requested. After the engagement letter was received, the Taiwan company notified the attorney that they had told the licensee company that the attorney’s firm was prepping to file suit to claim the amount owed, and the licensee company purported it would pay back the due amount. Within a few days, the attorney received at their law firm a “check” from the licensee company. The check was a large amount, so the attorney contacted the supposed licensee company and questioned whether they had issued the check. The actual company said that it had not issued any check. The Taiwan company has since contacted the attorney’s law firm asking whether the check was received. The Taiwan company said to take legal fees/expenses from the amount and pay the remainder over to the Taiwan company.
Update 7/8/2020: We received an update from the Texas attorney who was being impersonated by someone out of Staten Island, NY. They received another call from their managing partner that it happened again, this time out of Las Vegas, NV. Someone hacked their State Bar page and is misrepresenting them as their attorney. The Texas attorney has never been licensed in Nevada.
We received reports of three more scams.
A Texas attorney was recently defrauded out of $15,000 by a supposed client asking for help negotiating and closing the sale of medical ventilators to a hospital in New Mexico. The attorney practices in New Mexico but lives in El Paso and deposited the phony cashier’s check there. The attorney filed a complaint with the FBI. Read the scam details from the attorney.
A Texas attorney received a call at their office that someone was impersonating them out of Staten Island, New York, and the person said they had retained the impersonator to represent them on a New York probate matter. They said the person who referred the attorney to them had represented the referrer’s father’s estate in New York. The attorney is not licensed in New York, and this person has never been a client of theirs. The attorney filed a report with the police department.
A Texas attorney received an email from a person requesting to retain their services for a dog bite claim and also included pictures. The person said the bite occurred when they were in Texas but that they live in Japan. They said the supposed dog owner had agreed to pay a settlement out of court but that they failed to do so. The attorney was never able to reach the supposed client by phone. The attorney then received an email from the supposed dog owner saying they wanted to settle the case out of court and attached a copy of the signed settlement agreement between the two parties. After further investigation into the correspondence, the attorney found that it was a scam.
Update 6/3/2020: We received a report of more scams. A Texas law firm received several emails requesting their services. The scammers used different names but followed similar patterns. They purported to be on behalf of presidents and directors of different companies, two based in Asia and one in New Jersey. The firm tried to verify their identities but was unable to. View copies of the scam emails.
Update 5/29/2020: A Texas attorney reported two more scams. A firm received an email requesting their services and accepted the request. They received a $300,000.00 check, which they deposited, and then sent most of that money via wire transfer to Asia. The check bounced, and the firm notified their bank. They were not able to recover their money. Another scam was sent via text message. An attorney received a text appearing to be an urgent message from their bank. The text said to call the bank immediately and that an unknown subject opened an account with their information and misappropriated money. The attorney called the number given, which appears to be real, and reached an automated message. The message asked them to verify their bank account information, which included their checking account number, credit card numbers, card security code, and last four digits of their social security number. They verified all of the information via the automated message. The attorney’s bank account was reduced to almost zero, their credit cards were maxed out, and a new credit card had been requested to be sent to a different address. These scams also targeted attorneys in Massachusetts.
Update 2/20/20: Attorneys continue to receive the Compass Upstream Services scam emails. A Maryland attorney received one from Harry Jones, and a Michigan attorney received one from Jacob Taylor. The email language is identical, with different names used for the vice president, customer, and bank on the check.
Update 2 –
A Tennessee attorney and another California attorney were targets of the Compass Upstream Services scam.
The Tennessee attorney reported that they were contacted by vice president Harry Jones. They were suspect of the initial email but did attempt to send correspondence in the mail, which was returned. They attempted a phone call, but no one answered, and the ring and voicemail was “off.”
The California attorney provided further details about the scam they received.
The client phone calls tended to last 3-5 minutes in length, and they were very quick to jump off the phone with little detail being discussed.
After the attorney received a $200,000.00 cashier’s check which was meant to be a deposit for travel and inspection fees for an engineer the leasing broker was to hire, the client contacted the attorney approving of some of the deal points and instructing them to deposit the check. The client also stated that the payment to the engineering company doing the inspection, hired by the broker, would need to be expedited to the next day given how quickly the project was progressing. The attorney explained the limitations of this arrangement to the client and also followed up on a number of factual issues they had discovered and asked for an explanation. No response was forthcoming.
None of the companies involved appear to have any online footprint or exist on their state’s secretary of state websites. The attorney also contacted the supposed leasing company, Pacific Coast Energy Company. They had no idea who the client was, who their supposed broker was, or that any lease was anticipated.
The client insists on payment being deposited and a check cut the next day which the attorney anticipates will be before the funds have cleared or been deposited in the account, although the attorney did not deposit the check to find out. They would venture a guess that the check is not good and that the payment would have been issued well before this fact was discovered, leaving the attorney holding the bag with a trust account now light on funds.
Update 1 –
We received a report from a Dallas attorney who was contacted by a person claiming to represent a debt collection company in Florida. The person requested the attorney’s assistance in recovering a debt from a company based in Texas. The email asked the attorney to send a demand letter for the debt collection to the company. After the demand letter, the person called the attorney stating the company had just sent them a portion of the debt. The person told the attorney they would mail them the debt payment check to cash and for the attorney to take his portion of the fees. The caller asked the attorney to then wire back the remainder of the money. A fellow attorney who had received the email said it claimed to have been from the Dallas Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service but it was not sent in the regular way for a referral.
Update: 2/11/20: We received three more reports from out of state attorneys who received the Compass Upstream Services, LLC scam emails. A New Jersey attorney received an email from Harry Jones. View the email chains and documents, which include an email from the supposed broker and a letter of intent, to a California attorney from Ryan Johnson and to a Utah attorney from Danny Gibson.
Update 2/7/20: We received reports from four more attorneys who received scam emails from Compass Upstream Services, LLC. The attorneys targeted are in California, Maryland, Michigan, and Virginia/Washington D.C. The emails came from vice presidents of the company using the names Harry Cooper, Harry Jones, Ryan Johnson, and Scott Carter. View one of the email chains.
Update 2/5/20: We received reports from two more attorneys who received the same scam as the one we reported on January 27, with slight variations in the emails they received. The emails were also from Compass Upstream Services, LLC out of Austin, TX, soliciting help in drafting an equipment lease agreement but were were from a vice president Ryan Johnson. One attorney called the telephone number from the email and website, and no one answered. The call went to an automated voicemail that had a strange sounding ring. There were two different email addresses, a comcast.com email address and a compassupstreamservices.com email address, used for Ryan Johnson in the emails that another attorney received.
Update 1/27/20: We received a report of another scam. An attorney received an email from a person named James Marshall, who claimed to be with a company called Compass Upstream Services LLC, based out of Texas. In his email, the scammer stated that his company was going to lease drilling equipment to another Texas company, at the rate of $65,000 per day, and he wanted to know if the attorney could write the lease agreement. In the scammer’s email, he said he needed an attorney in “your state,” which the attorney assumes means Texas.
The attorney was suspicious of the email and found no record of the scammer’s LLC being registered in Texas. The attorney checked the ICANN database for the scammer’s domain name. As of Saturday, the scammer’s domain name and website did not exist, but they do exist as of today. The attorney inspected the scammer’s website, www.compassupstreamservices.com, and found that it looks like an exact copy of the website of another oil company, www.marriottdrilling.com.
Update 11/14/2019: We received a report of another scam. An attorney received an email from a Japanese company named Kuraray Co. Ltd, which appears to be a real company. The email used a fake email address, and stated that the Japanese company had a claim against a Grand Prairie company for unpaid invoices and wanted to hire the attorney. The attorney ignored the email but eventually received a fake settlement check that appeared to come from the Grand Prairie company, but the check was mailed from Canada. The attorney was invited to deposit the check and take out the attorney’s fee, even though the attorney never negotiated or requested the fee. The attorney took the check to their bank, and the bank spotted several problems with the check and confirmed it was fake, as did the real Grand Prairie company. UPDATE 7/23/2020: According to information received on 7/23/2020, Kuraray Co., Ltd., is a legitimate business with no control over or connection with online scamming.
Update 9/18/2019: We received a report of another scam. An attorney received an email from a scammer using the name of a law firm from Texas but with an email using a domain address from Australia: email@example.com. The email states that the attorney is being sued by the scammer’s client, must download a link to find out the details of the “immense psychological suffering” the attorney caused with their words, and that the scammer and the client will see the attorney in court.
Update 9/3/2019: A Texas attorney today reported that someone falsely claiming to represent the State Bar of Texas called her to request payment of bar fees. The call came from the number 888-270-4815, which is not associated with the State Bar. Fortunately, the attorney realized she was being targeted by a scam and reported it to the bar. Legitimate messages regarding State Bar of Texas fees will come via mail or email from the State Bar Membership Department. Attorneys can contact the Membership Department at 800-204-2222 (ext. 1383) or firstname.lastname@example.org to verify whether a communication is from the State Bar.
Update 6/27/2019: We received reports of two more scams. An attorney reported two scams he has received via email. In the first one and the one he receives most often, he receives an email from “Alexis Berger.” The email generally contains the following information: “I am seriously in need of your legal assistance. i lent my brother-in-law some money and has refused to pay back i checked your profile and find your firm capable of assisting me in my legal issue. Here is my email address email@example.com. Mr Alexis Berger.” The email address usually varies by the numbers at the end of the scammer’s name and is always at gmail.com. This scam has also been reported by numerous attorneys in the United States and Canada. The second email the attorney received is an email from “Shin Okura” with Tokai Electronics, a Japanese company, apparently looking to bring a claim against a local Houston company for unpaid invoices. Invoices and documents were also provided which looked very suspicious and altered. This scam has also been reported by law firms in Canada.
Update 6/24/2019: We received a report of another scam. An attorney was contacted by a scammer who requested to retain the attorney’s representation for a dog bite case. The scammer claimed they were bit by a dog, that the dog’s owner had agreed to pay a settlement for medical expenses, and that the dog owner had not yet paid. The attorney was also contacted by the person claiming to be the dog owner, who was part of the scam. The dog owner claimed to want to pay the settlement to the scammer through the attorney and out of court. The scammer also used photos from a news story in the UK that they claimed showed the dog bite. This same scam has been reported in other states, with the scammer using different cities where the dog bite incident occurred.
Update 5/31/2019: We received a report of another scam. An attorney was recently made aware that an unknown individual going by the name Simon Grant has stolen the attorney’s name, bar number, and publicly available contact information. The scammer contacts victims by email and is using the attorney’s information to defraud individuals by claiming to be the attorney or be employed by the attorney. The scammer also created a false website which has since been taken down.
Update 3/13/19: We received a report of another scam. A Texas attorney received an email inquiry for a new case through the attorney’s firm website. The scammer requested to retain the firm for help in getting repayment for a loan. A copy of the supposed loan agreement was sent to the firm. The address used for the loan borrower is local to the firm’s location. The address the scammer listed as their own is located in Hong Kong. The scammer used the name Mr. Zhang Chang. A similar scam by someone with that name was previously reported by two Ontario law firms.
Update 1/30/2018: We received a report of another scam. A Texas attorney recently received an email that is part of an ongoing scam directed to attorneys in which the scammer is attempting to get the attorney to wire real funds after receiving fraudulent payments (bad checks or fake credit cards). The text of the email is as follows:
I am in need of your legal assistance regarding a breach of loan agreement I provided a friend of mine in the amount of $750,000. He needed this loan to complete an ongoing project he was handling last year. He now resides in your jurisdiction and the loan was for 24 months with interest accrued at the rate of 7.5%. The capital and interest were supposed to be paid May last year but he has only paid $50,000 which was in October.
Please let me know if this falls within the scope of your practice, so that I can provide you with the loan documents and any further information you need to know.
Update 1/25/2018: We received a report of another scam. A Texas law firm received an inquiry through their website asking if they could draw up a contract for the sale of used construction heavy equipment. The firm responded asking for more details, and the “seller” in Florida sent a detailed appraisal and photograph of the equipment, complete with serial number and a signed letter of intent from a buyer in Texas. The “seller”, “buyer,” and “broker” information all checked out online in Florida, and the “buyer” information also checked out on the Texas Secretary of State website. All were legitimate businesses involved in that type of transaction.
The “seller” signed the engagement letter and sent a paper check from New York that looked legitimate and appeared to be issued by the “buyer.” The firm deposited the check into their trust account. Later that week, the “seller” asked them to wire part of the funds for an inspection of the equipment. Because the check hadn’t cleared the firm’s bank and the wire was to a location in Asia, the firm didn’t send the money, and they inspected further.
The firm called the “seller” who answered using the name of the legitimate Florida businessman. He provided a number during that call that went to a recorded voicemail matching the “broker” details. They called a phone number from the broker’s website, and the real broker answered and said they were the second firm that week to call him (the other was from Delaware), that a scammer had ripped off his letterhead and information, and that he was not involved in any transaction like they described. The firm also contacted the “buyer” using an independent number they found, and the local person who answered said that he ran a legitimate business but was not buying any equipment and knew nothing of the transaction.
The firm contacted their bank, and the bank president contacted the issuing check bank. The issuing check bank was a real bank, but the check and account number with that bank were phony.
Update 11/15/2017: We have received a report of another scam. A person in Australia was contacted by a scammer using a Texas attorney’s information. The person who was contacted was scammed previously and lost money, and he believes it is the same scammers who are contacting him again. In the emails, the scammers say they can recover the person’s money for him from a company, Norton Pearce Associates, that has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Update 9/13/17: We have received a report of another scam. A person in New York received a phone call from someone claiming to be her grandson, who lives in Texas. She was told that he was in jail and needed bail money. They told her to call (877) 386-6064 for the Bradford Law Firm and ask for attorney Allen Roberts. The phone number has been disconnected, and the Texas attorney Allen Roberts is deceased.
Update 7/13/17: We received a report from an attorney who was contacted through their firm Facebook page and by e-mail by someone who claims that the attorney represents them in a lawsuit in Kenya. The person is not a client of the firm, and they have no record of any previous communication with the person.
Update 6/26/17: We received a report of another scam targeting Texas attorneys. An attorney received a scam email seeking representation to draft a purchase and sales agreement for a boat sale. The scammer sent the email using another attorney’s name in the email address. View the scam email attachment.
Update 5/26/17: We received a report of another scam targeting Texas attorneys.
A lawyer received a call from someone purporting to be from the State Bar of Texas. The caller, who identified the date the lawyer was admitted to practice law in Texas, offered the attorney a half-year free membership and listed associated benefits. After the attorney refused and ended the conversation, the caller attempted to contact another lawyer in his office but was stopped by the receptionist.
The State Bar of Texas Membership Department does not call attorneys with special offers for membership dues.
Update 5/4/17: We received reports of two more scams targeting Texas attorneys.
A law firm received emails from a person asking to hire the firm to collect payment for goods provided to a third party. The firm also received an email from the third party. Both emails were fake. The firm also received a check as a retainer, and upon verification with the Canadian bank listed on the check, confirmed it was fake. View the scam emails and fraudulent check.
Another law firm received several scam emails within a few days of each other from different senders from locations in Europe, the Netherlands, Africa, and the United States. The emails were requests for various legal services including help with a real estate loan default, seeking assistance with an investment, and drafting a purchase and sales agreement for a drilling rig. The firm also received a fake out of office reply email from a sender they did not contact.
Update 4/17/17: We received a report of another scam in which a law firm’s accounting department received an email purporting to be from the president of the firm, instructing them to pay a statement for $19,500 for professional service. When accounting requested more information, the president responded that the email was not from him. The address it appeared to come from was firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update 4/11/2017: We received reports of two more scams targeting Texas attorneys.
An attorney received a phishing email. He tried to open an email which appeared to be from a referring attorney sending documents via DocuSign. Over 20 people on his contact list also received the email. The hackers sent out thousands of fake emails to his contacts which appeared to be coming from him. The hackers also responded to inquiries from his contacts questioning if the phishing email was legitimate.
Another attorney received a fraudulent check. He received a $400,000 check that cleared his bank and was told it was part of a $1,000,000 deal. He also received a second payment. He received instructions to deduct his fee and wire the remaining funds to Kenya. He called his bank to verify the check. The check had a name and address on it that appeared to belong to an oil company but was that of a U.S. insurance company.
Update 3/9/2017: We have received a report of a phishing scam targeting Texas attorneys. The scammer stated they were seeking legal counsel. View a copy of the scam email.
Update: 2/23/17: We have received reports of another scam email targeting Texas attorneys. Some attorneys have received emails that appear to be coming from another attorney. It appears that the scammer was able to access attorneys’ email address books for the purpose of forwarding the e-mail from one attorney to another giving the appearance that it is a referral. It is apparently a scam enlisting attorneys to prepare legal documents upon receiving a cashier’s check deposited in trust accounts with an overpayment of legal fees being returned to the scammer from the attorney’s trust account. The initial payment is fraudulent.
Law firms in Canada and the UK have received similar e-mails.
The scam emails are coming from the following accounts with the name Tijmen Smit: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update: 9/23/16: A San Antonio lawyer has notified the State Bar of Texas that he received a fraudulent check as part of an attempted scam. View the fraudulent check and scam letter.
Update 2/26/16: We received a report about another fraudulent check scam targeting attorneys.
Update 2/3/16: We received a report of a new scam targeting clients of attorneys. Scammers are “spoofing” phone numbers of attorneys and calling clients to get money. Read the full story.
Update 10/23/15: The State Bar of Texas has been alerted to a potential email scam involving a debt collection. On October 20, a Fort Sam Houston attorney received an email from a sender who claimed that she had lent a sum of money to a borrower, and that the borrower had not yet repaid the loan in full and had since moved to Texas. The sender claimed she was seeking legal assistance in the matter and requested information about the attorney’s fees. The message also included a copy of two checks (here and here) and an alleged loan agreement promissory note.
Update 10/8/15: We received a recent report of a scam targeting attorneys. An attorney was contacted by a company and received a bogus check. Read the details on this fraudulent check scam.
Update 2/26/15. 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.
Update 6/4/14. We received a report this week about a sophisticated scam involving collection with a fraudulent certified check that has affected at least three Texas attorneys. Read the details here.
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.
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.