Lawyers Have Lost $70M to ... Email Scammers

One will be prosecuted this fall

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 6, 2012 11:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – Even lawyers can be taken in by email scams—and one US Postal Inspector estimates law firms have lost at least $70 million to such scams since 2009, the Wall Street Journal reports. Scammers email lawyers—known for their eagerness to gain new clients, often via the Internet—with a convincing tale of woe. The con artist says he needs the law firm's help collecting money from a legal settlement or debtor, then sends a sophisticated counterfeit cashier's check to the firm. All the lawyers have to do, the scammer explains, is take out their fee and return the balance of the check to an overseas account.

Only—as anyone familiar with email scams will probably have guessed—the check is actually no good. But many law firms have fallen for the trick and wired the money before realizing that. Con artists make the elaborate stories very believable, with authentic-looking insurance paperwork and contact information that leads back to other scammers, who vouch for the documents' legitimacy. "In hindsight it sounds like you're stupid if you got trapped, but while you're in it, it's very sophisticated," says one personal-injury attorney who was targeted by a ring that allegedly drained $32 million from law firms. Federal prosecutors are putting that scammer on trial in the fall.

  (Shutterstock)
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