Colorado Supreme Court

Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel

Promoting Professionalism. Protecting the Public.

Old Scam, New Tactics
The bad-check scam artists that have targeted attorneys for years have increased the aura of legitimacy and are ensnaring some Colorado lawyers.

Spring 2016

Colorado attorneys should be on guard against a series of scams that have emerged in recent months.

The underlying trick used by these scammers is an old one, but the method by which they convince attorneys of their legitimacy is newly sophisticated. The scammers use real business names and real employee names. They target lawyers in niche practices instead of using vague blast emails. And they’re now actually talking to lawyers on the phone.

The Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel has learned of a handful of instances in which attorneys were targeted in recent months. Falling prey can have big consequences. In most of the recent instances, the attorney is now in conflict with the bank concerning who is on the hook for what in a few of the cases has been more than $100,000 in losses.

The specifics of each of the recent cases differ. The general story, however, is the same. A person purporting to represent a faraway company contacts a Colorado lawyer seeking help with a large business transaction. The faraway company wants to enter into an agreement to sell their product to a buyer here in Colorado. The scammers now use real Colorado businesses as their supposed buyer. Following conversations by email and phone between the purported client and the attorney here locally, the attorney receives a cashier’s check purportedly from the Colorado buyer. Once the attorney deposits the buyer’s check, the client requests that the attorney wire transfer some or all of the buyer’s money to the client’s account.

In these instances, the attorneys say their trust account showed the funds available. One attorney caught onto the scam before wiring the money. Others did not and are now in a struggle with the bank over who is culpable.

For more information on the types of scams and possible red flags, LawPRO has written a helpful guide.

James Carlson is the Information Resources Coordinator for the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel.