New Jersey State Bar Association - The voluntary Bar Association of New Jersey, serving members since 1899.

State Bar Association Issues Alert About Scam

The New Jersey State Bar Association is issuing an alert to members and the public about a scam email campaign targeting attorneys and law firms, typically involving a prospective client looking for help with a collection or similar matter.

Banking officials notified the state’s largest lawyers group of the scam, which targets attorney trust account funds.

“We are asking all New Jersey attorneys to be vigilant for suspicious emails. We are deeply concerned some in the legal community may be retained by a sender of one of these scam emails, and end up with a shortfall in their trust account out of the mistaken belief they were dealing with a bona fide client,” said State Bar Association President Susan A. Feeney.

Scammers targeted at least four attorneys who used Skylands Community Bank in roughly the past year involving requests for over $1.6 million. Bank officials said there have been minimal losses and they have instituted tighter controls involving wire transfers out of the country. They notified the bar association saying it is an ongoing industry problem and that customers of at least three other banks throughout the state have been targeted.

While there have been variations of the details, the way the scam plays out is consistent:

An attorney receives an email from a potential client. The sender asks for assistance with a delinquent collections or similar matter that requires the receipt of funds into an attorney’s trust account. If the attorney agrees, funds that appear to be legitimate, sometimes even by way of a bank check, are transferred. The client then requests the attorney hand over the money that has been deposited into the trust account. It is not until the attorney wires the funds to the client’s account that they discover the original check was bogus.

“In this age of fast-moving technology, it is increasingly critical that you get to know your clients through more than just email communication. It is also essential to get to know your bankers so they can look out for potential problems,” Feeney said.

The American Bar Association provides a July 2009 article from Law Practice Today on scam alerts.

Scam alerts are also discussed on this blog

June 8, 2011