Colorado Supreme Court
Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel
Promoting Professionalism. Protecting the Public.
[Editor’s note: This version is a revision from the original posting.]
Recently, the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel has received calls alleging a lawyer has engaged in misconduct. Upon further investigation, we have determined the lawyer’s identity was used as part of a fraud, unbeknownst to the lawyer.
One fact pattern involves the seller of a timeshare property who uses someone purporting to be a broker for the sale. The purported broker uses the name of a licensed lawyer to add legitimacy to the scheme. The person pretending to be the broker creates a fake website for the lawyer so that if the seller googles the lawyer, it looks legitimate. As part of the sale process, the broker (sometimes also posing as the lawyer) tells the seller to wire money to the lawyer. The bank account is not the lawyer’s account. Often the broker obtains two or three such transfers for fees, taxes, etc. (amounting to $10,000 or more) before the seller figures out something is wrong. The seller tries to contact the lawyer and may even call OARC to file a complaint alleging the lawyer “stole” the seller’s money. The lawyer knew nothing about the transaction and the real identity of the person receiving the money is not known. Indeed, that person may be outside the United States. The lawyer must now try to recover his or her identity and deal with multiple investigations.
Please be vigilant in protecting your identity including your online presence. Consider “googling” yourself periodically. If you discover your identity has been used to perpetuate a fraud, please contact your local police department and review the information regarding identity theft from the FBI and the FTC. There are all types of scams that target lawyers. For additional examples, please see our article from Spring, 2016. Old Scam, New Tactics.