Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Are There Lawyers This Stupid?

Two recent scams:

Dear counsel
I need your legal assistance. I provided a friend of mine Mr Brian Caldwell a business loan in the amount of $350,000. He needed this loan to complete an ongoing project he was handling in 2009. Mr Brian is well based in your city and the loan was for 24 months and interest rate of 7.85%. The capital and interest were supposed to be paid on April 15th, 2011 but Mr Brian has only paid $50,000.
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. Contact me at ( Thanks, Taylor Fords.
Dear Counsel,
Pardon my mode of communication, I have gone through your profile and am
pleased with your reputation. I would want you to help me file a contempt
petition against my ex-spouse for failure to make court ordered payments
of Child Support and Medical support.
Please advise ASAP.
Michelle Seung
I am sure that in both cases, there will be some sort, "I'll send you a check to cover initial expenses" that is orders of magnitude too large ($500,000 for something that can't possibly exceed $20,000 in fees), and the "client" will request the lawyer send them a refund of the difference.  The $500,000 check drawn on the Left Bank of the Volga or the Right Bank of the Yangtze will, after several weeks, bounce, while the $480,000 refund check from the lawyer will by then have cleared.  My questions are these:

1. Are there that many lawyers gullible enough to be taken in by this?

2. If there are not, why do the scamsters try to run frauds like this?  You have to have occasional successes to justify the effort.  Or are these fools that paid for instructions on how to defraud rich and stupid Americans?

Note that Taylor Fords clearly doesn't know English all that well; "Mr Brian Caldwell", but later referenced as "Mr. Brian."  This is a logical mistake to make if you are used to the family name coming first, as is the case in China.


  1. A lot of elected officials are lawyers.

    Just sayin.

  2. It's too easy and cheap to send a large number of emails with no risk of being punished (and even less of being caught) so why not????

  3. Well, Mrs. Wilson didn't raise any fools. I figured I didn't need any business that came in via such a dodgy process as unsolicited e-mail, so I never got to the point of "here's $20,000, please refund the excess over the $5,000".

    As for lawyers being stupid, a lawyer I know had a friend (also a lawyer, and the stupid one)who got involved with some Nigerian scammers some (now 20-25) years ago, and the two of them were cruising around London (that London) with $50,000 of the friend's money in a suitcase until the lawyer I know said he thought the scam was for a much smaller amount, namely the money in the suitcase.

    In other cases I think the issue is lawyers getting hungry and not wanting to refuse business. California Lawyer published an article in the late 90's about a lawyer who was willing to talk about getting scammed by a disabled person who arranged to meet him at a restaurant to discuss a personal injury case that had caused the disability that was about to expire due to statute of limitations, and how the whole setup was for the disabled person to try to get some up front money, which from the author only amounted to cabfare since he refused the case.

  4. Some of these are fairly sophisticated. I'm a lawyer and recently was solicited; it smelled a bit funny but I sometimes work with people aren't native English speakers. I sent a neutral request for more information, and the follow-up named specific people and companies, with the defendant in my jurisdiction. Some research verified those names were associated with those companies. But it still seemed a bit off.

    I emailed the "plaintiff" company using an email address from their website; it was a slightly different domain than the one in the solicitation. The company said no, it wasn't them. When I searched on the solicitation email's domain I got a bunch of stuff in Cyrillic. A Russian-speaking attorney I work with said the host is in Ukraine, and that the solicitation language used the sort of syntax he'd expect from a native Russian speaker.

    So the scam setup was fairly sophisticated, but not good enough to scam someone who's modestly careful. But I have to wonder how many scammers there are with more polish.

  5. Yep, I get at least 10 of these per week. All typically have spelling and grammatical errors. More importantly the headers, reply-to and email addresses most often don't match the purported sender. Not to mention that that is not how you go about retaining an attorney.

    Basically, it is a quick press of the delete key for these.

  6. Here is a recent case of a successful scam on an attorney, who did not understand the difference between a check clearing and being collected.

  7. Clayton,

    The scam is actually a bit different than you surmise (though you are close).

    What happens is these scammers claim to be owed money by someone. Let's call them them Sam Scammer and David Defendant. Sam and David are both in on the scam.

    Sam hires an attorney to sue David. David says, "Oh, you got me, I admit I owe Sam." David pays a "settlement" via certified check to the lawyer. The certified check is a forgery.

    Sam calls the lawyer and says, "I hear David paid up - great job and please send me my money immediately by wire transfer after deducting your fee."

    By the time the certified check is identified as a forgery, the money from the law firm is long gone. This scam preys on attorney ethics rules, which require client money to be paid to them promptly.

    And yes, attorneys have been taken in by these scams. Link below is to the attorney disciplinary agency for IL, with their advice for avoiding this scam and a link to news about lawyers taken in.

  8. Often though, the REAL product isn't a successful scam. It's part of the spammer life cycle, a sort of pyramid scheme.

    The way it works is there are people who market to wannabe spammers, offering to sell them systems, and e-mail lists. THEY get money for the e-mail lists, and the suckers go and post spam, and may get nothing. Sometimes they're too incompetent to use the software, which explains the blank spam messages we sometimes get.

    Failing at scamming, they turn around and re-sell the e-mail list and system to another spammer or two.

  9. I have made pretty good money from the lady who contacted me regarding the collection of an unpaid debt. I wired the money to a man in Nigeria who will pay me my 20% cut once he is able to sneak out of the country. This garbage scheme works because attorneys don't understand the internet. The money you lose to these guys is far less than the fake SEO guys who will put you on page one of Google.