Firms get scam spam

March 10, 2010
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If you get a grammatically incorrect and misspelled e-mail from someone asking if you’d represent them in a case, chances are it’s a scam. Luckily the Indiana attorneys who received these e-mails recognized that right away.

In fact, it’s a scam the FBI warned law firms about in January. It’s a twist on the counterfeit check schemes – someone wants you to deposit a check, keep some money, and then send the rest back to them. But the checks are never legitimate and the gullible person now finds their wallet lighter.

The Bloomington law firm Ferguson & Ferguson received this e-mail in multiple times in the last few weeks. Associate Michael McBride said the firm started receiving them in late January in a cluster of two or three at a time, and then would receive a few more weeks later. They last received the scam e-mail Feb. 22.

The e-mails went to the firm Web site’s “General Questions” form, seeking large collections against real Indiana companies. The senders claimed to not speak English well, thus explaining the grammatical errors and misspellings littering the e-mails. The firm did a little digging and discovered they were coming mostly from South America and Asia, and the e-mail addresses had just been created within the last month or so. McBride said everything just seems slightly off about them.

Josh Brown, an associate at S.K. Huffer & Associates in Carmel, said his firm received a scam e-mail Jan. 26 from a woman claiming to be in Spokane, Wash., who was looking for counsel to represent her home-building company in a breach of contract suit in Indiana. The first thing Brown found odd was the woman signed the e-mail “Diana L.” When he learned everyone else in the firm also received the e-mail directly, he decided to do a little research. With the help of Google, he found a phone number and got a hold of a woman. But it wasn’t Diana. It was the actual owner of the builder, who said more than 30 attorneys had called her in the past day about the e-mail. Turns out the company was legitimate, but it wasn’t active in building anymore. The owner didn’t know who was sending the e-mails.

After Brown confirmed the scam, he contacted the Indiana State Bar Association and the local FBI branch to let them know. Carissa Long with the ISBA said the bar typically publishes notice of the scams in their membership-wide e-newsletter.

Brown said there are some law firms that conduct business only through e-mail, so they could be more susceptible to these kinds of scams that thrive on electronic communication. Just a quick phone call to the person in the e-mail or an Internet search could prevent the firm from falling victim to one of these scams.

“When red flags pop up, pay attention to those,” Brown said.

Brown had received only that one scam e-mail in January, but just this morning called to tell me that he got an e-mail from a guy claiming to be on house arrest in a foreign country who needed help protecting his $27 million. Something tells me Brown won’t be offering his assistance or bank account.

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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.