E-mail scams are not new by any means, but they’ve certainly gotten more sophisticated.

The evolution of the internet has stripped down previous geographical and informational barriers, and, made it easier for would-be scam-artists to provide the perception of reputability with professional looking websites and “references” to alleviate concerns. After-all, today’s technology makes it possible to get a website set-up in minutes (or in a few hours), and a simple thing to set up multiple domains… and consequently professional looking e-mail addresses.

I love technology, I really do, but not all of its many advances are beneficial in the wrong hands.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to really do your due diligence.

Here’s What to Avoid!

Here are a couple examples of the common scam setup:

The Case of the Bounced Cheque: Here’s how this one typically goes down. Lawyer gets approached by someone with an, often routine, legal issue. Lawyer does some due diligence and the client appears to check out. After some time, lawyer is informed that the matter has been settled and the client (or ‘third party’) sends them a check to be deposited into a trust fund. The lawyer is instructed to deduct their fee and transfer the balance of the cash to an overseas account. Big, bad surprise when the cheque in question inevitably bounces.

The Advanced Fee Phenomena: Yup – We’ve all gotten one of these. “I’ve gotten a bazillion dollar inheritance, but I need to pay taxes of XYZ before I can get my money.”  Inevitably, the would be scammer needs your help to provide advance funds to secure the bigger jackpot. As thanks, you’ll receive a generous fee for very little work. Thanks to the internet, these scam artists may actually appear to be legitimate on the surface. As old as this story is, people are still falling for it. This lawyer did.

If Something Smells Fishy… Run for the Hills!

Be especially on guard if you encounter any of these warning signs:

  • Big return for a trivial amount of work.
  • There is an urgency around speed (afterall – the would be scammer wants funds transferred before that cheque can bounce)!
  • You need to “pay-in” to get a large pay-out.
  • Something has gone terribly wrong and funds (from you) are required for the deal to proceed.
  • Business client with non-business email (though this one is fairly easy for a sophisticated scammer to get around).
  • The sender does not address you by name (i.e. Dear lawyer, Dear Sir/Madam, etc.)
  • Something about the scenario just doesn’t make sense.

The best way to avoid a scam is to stay informed and use good judgment.

Do your due diligence! Make sure you cross-check client contact details (for example do an internet search on provided phone numbers, use a reverse look up directory, or double check that a senders domain is exactly the same as a reputable business they claim to represent).

Reduce risk  – note that this, alas, does not completely eliminate risk – by asking your bank to verify that cheque is legitimate.

Don’t pay fees in haste (otherwise you may be repenting in leisure).

For more tips on how to avoid the e-mail scam, check out the great resource from the Law Society of British Columbia here or this one from the New York City Bar.

This is a story as old as that of the Trojan Horse. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Kabuk connects consumers, and small businesses, with the legal providers they need, when they need them, and enables them to request desired appointments online. Our platform is designed to streamline the legal discovery process, putting needed information right at the fingertips of consumers, and helping them to make more informed decisions. For legal providers, we help increase your online presence and improve your customer acquisition efforts. Check us out at kabuklaw.com and follow us at @KabukLaw.

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