While most attorneys can probably spot a scam artist when a fishy email lands in their inbox or a strange message ends up on the voicemail, it can sometimes be tricky to discern between real legal inquiries and fraudulent messages. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, one popular scam targeting law firms is a counterfeit check scheme in which scammers send emails to lawyers, claiming to be overseas and seeking legal representation to collect delinquent payments from third parties in the U.S.
No matter if your firm is a brick and mortar practice or a web-based practice, it’s important to be able to spot offers that seem to be and that are too good to be true. Here are a few ways to spot and handle a scam:
- Run a quick search on names and details of the inquiry. Chances are, if you are being scammed, you won’t be the only attorney contacted. Attorney Email Scams keeps a running list of common scam emails.
- Be wary of large, upfront offers for retainer. Think about your current, real clients. How many times have they randomly offered you money without trying to save money in fees?
- Think twice about your area of expertise. If the potential client makes a legal inquiry regarding a complex business matter but you focus on personal injury cases, you should question why that person would want to entrust his or her matter to you.
- Check for spelling and grammatical errors. For whatever reason, many scammers seem to have terrible typing skills. Not all of your clients will be great writers, but usually they will be able to communicate a complete, coherent thought.
- Make sure the potential client is actually making an inquiry for legal services. If the request is to collect and transfer money, your are most likely dealing with a scam artist.
If you do believe you have been contacted by a scam artist, be sure to include your correspondence on the Attorney Email Scams website and file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center).