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Collection Industry Internet Scams

The Collection Industry has been targeted by internet con artists.  Internet scams have become increasingly sophisticated, and in recent months, many of them have specifically targeted agencies and law firms engaged in the collection business.  The purpose of this blog is to provide a consolidated resource of information, warnings, and personal experiences which will hopefully minimize the damage that these con artists can cause.

This is an information bulletin board.  The American Lawyers Company has required those posting comments to be identified but makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the information entered.  The American Lawyers Company expressly denies liability for any information posted on this blog or for the consequences thereof.

Comments from ALQ Website Users:

Subject:Scam story to share ...

I just had a run in with a sophisticated scam artist to share. Last week, I received a solicitation from a company in Michigan for action against a company in Georgia. Both companies were registered with the SOS in their states, so it looked legit at the outset. I conversed with the president of the “creditor” (name was the same as listed with the SOS) and an hourly retainer agreement was sent. Stated that he was on good terms with the debtor and wanted a soft approach. Immediately after the retainer agreement was received back by email (no check for the retainer received yet), and before we could even open our file, I received another email from the creditor that the debtor had just contacted him and wanted to make a payment. He says that he referred them to us to make the payment. This made me suspicious, but has happened in the past. This week we received a letter from the debtor and an “official” Citibank check for $98,750.00 by regular mail. The letter looked legit enough, was signed by an officer of the corporation (same name as listed with the SOS) but had no phone number on the letterhead and the email address on the letter was a gmail account. The check had all of the info you would look for, but no hologram and a generic looking watermark. This made me suspicious. I examined the envelope that the check and letter came in and noticed that there was no return address on the envelope. I then noticed that the postmark and stamp on the envelope were from CANADA. That really got the sirens going off. I then called the debtor’s number and the “client’s” number again which both went to generic voicemails. I decided to email the “client” again and told him that since we had no involvement in securing the check and could not verify its authenticity, that I would not be depositing the check into my trust account and would instead be endorsing the check over to his company and would be directing any and all future payments to him. I haven’t heard from him yet and do not expect that I will.
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Subject:Here's another one ...

Thanks for the info. We recently had another one as well. It’s amazing how legitimate they seem to be. The “client” was SEVISAN AR. S.L.

In Spain. The website checked out. Even the person’s name was almost a perfect match. No sooner did we sign an Engagement Agreement, the debtor sent $350,000 as part payment before we ever sent a demand letter. We believe this may have been a scam without the debtor’s knowledge because the true Monarch Construction Corp. is a legitimate company located in Syosset, New York. But the check came in from Toronto drawn on Scotiabank.

Wanda Borges
Borges & Associates, LLC
Syosset, NY
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Subject:Suspicious File Noah Supply vs. Cleanus

As we continue to learn, Scammers continue to become more and more sophisticated.

Has anyone been approached by Lucy Cho to collect on bad checks against a debtor named Cleanus Inc.? The creditor is listed with an address in Toronto and the debtor in Illinois--too many bells going off here. The phone is a Canadian cell phone and the fax has a California area code. The mailing address is a hotel in Toronto and the Illinois business is coming up at a different address and is a dissolved corporation. I would bet others may have been reached by this same party with either a similar name or scenario.

I pointed out to my team a few read flags right out of the gate:
A gmail address
In this instance there is no website for the creditor
Standard docs. Statement, invoices, bad checks, and a pg or promissory note
The bad checks are 3 weeks old for nearly $70,000. Who places files that quickly with an unknown agency?

We have safeguards in place to protect ourselves; however, when we let our guards down, a few of these type of files make their way into the system. Eventually they are filtered out, but precious time is wasted and unfortunately agencies and law firms find themselves being victims of these scams.

Lou Figueroa
Credit Decisions International Ltd.
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Subject:Frank, Frank, Goldstein & Nager is a Victim of Identity Theft

It has been brought to our attention that consumers are receiving emails from a separate entity referencing a fake Court date and our firm’s name. More specifically the emails state that the consumer owes a specific amount and must either report to a New York Court on a specified date (usually only a few days away) OR they must mail a check for the $980 to an address in California. This email uses Jocelyn Nager’s name. Some of the emails include the individual’s social security number. PLEASE NOTE: WE ARE NOT AFFILIATED WITH THESE ENTITIES OR EMAILS IN ANY WAY. THE CORRESPONDENCE IS HARASSING. THIS FIRM WOULD NEVER ISSUE THESE NOTICES OR EMAILS.
Thus far, the emails we are aware of being sent are from: Erik Wall, deptsettlementdcouncil@hotmail.com and Peter Williams, deptsettlementdcouncel@live.com. The subject line for both of these emails reflects: Civil Action (date) Final Notification. In addition, the email is signed:

Court-Ordered Debt Collections

Franchise Tax Board

PO Box1328

Rancho Cordova, CA 95741-1328

We have reported this violation to the appropriate authorities. If you receive this email, please send copies to us and report the activity to the FBI, Attorney General and FTC.


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Subject:Fraudulent claim

We received a case for $400,000. Even before we acknowledged receipt, we received an email from the debtor indicating that a "good faith" payment of $44,806 was on its way. Immediately upon our receipt of the check, the forwarder began pressuring us to wire the proceeds to their UK bank account. The check was not good. Luckily we had wired no funds.
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Subject:Suggestions for investigating a claim from a foreign creditor

I just attended a presentation on this subject of scams last weekend with our friends at the Western CLLA Meeting. Here are some of the things the presenters suggested we all do when investigating a claim from a foreign creditor.

1. The Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Asset Control maintains a list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons at http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Pages/default.aspx

2. FINRA The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has a platform to search the above OFAC SDN list athttp://apps.finra.org/rulesregulation/ofac/1/Default.aspx

3. Google the creditor. Call them up and speak with the Controller or officer of the company.

4. Use LawPros's Avoidaclaim website to learn how to recognize scams and report them when you detect them. See http://avoidaclaim.com/

5. Check out the CLLA's scam alert page at www.clla.org in the members section.

6. Check our whether the foreign creditor is in good standing at
http:www.credit-to-cash-advisor.com/Resources/CompanyRegisters

7. Don't deal with a company that does not have a bonafide business internet domain. Don't respond to emails from a Gmail, hotmail or yahoo email account.

8. Demand complete documentation and make sure it is not phony.

9. Don't take checks for your retainer or costs. Insist on wire transfers.

10. Call your favorite law list for their input.

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Subject:Anatomy of a scam. I hope no law firms fall for this one ...

I received an email from a "prospective" client who was referred to me by another attorney. The "client" sounded legit; his debtor was legit; we sent a retainer agreement; he signed it. Then a few days later, he said the debtor was making a partial payment of $138,600.00 and would send it to my office. I immediately smelled something was wrong, since we had not even reached out to the debtor. When the "funds" arrived, I called my bank and not surprisingly, the "cashier's check" is bogus. Another giveaway was that the check came from somewhere in Canada, best we can ascertain it was a convenience store. And finally, the check is missing some of the important security safeguards. The scammers are getting more creative, and we have to all be diligent. It also proves one of my rules -- if it sounds too good to be true, it is. There is never an exception to that rule.
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Subject:BBB warns consumers to be on the lookout for smishing scams

Many consumers have their bank account conveniently at their fingertips. Better Business Bureau warns to watch out for text messages that pose as bank alerts asking you to confirm account information. These scam texts, known as smishing, are a relatively new way to steal personal information. The scam may consist of a text message that appears to be an alert from a bank which you may or may not have an account with. The text tells you to verify your account by either following a link or calling a phone number. The details of the scam vary. Banks of all sizes, from local businesses to multi-national institutions, have been targeted by scammers using a variety of messages and techniques. However, the desired outcome is the same. If you call a number or go to a website, scammers will use the opportunity to obtain your banking information. For example, the phone number or website may prompt you enter your ATM card number and PIN in order to"reactivate your ATM card." Other times, the link may download malicious software that gives scammers access to anything on the phone. BBB has these tips in case you receive a misleading message: Ignore instructions to text "STOP" or "NO." This is a common ploy by scammers to confirm they have a real, active phone number. Forward the texts to 7726 (SPAM on most keypads) . This will alert your cellphone carrier to block future texts from the number. Verify the web address . Call the bank or check out their website. See if your bank has been targeted by a scam. They will likely have further information about it. This often includes an email address where you can send a screen shot or details about your scam text to help identify and stop the scammers. Learn what your cellphone carrier has to say about stopping spam. Viisit the carrier's website for advice from ATT, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint. To check out a company and find trustworthy businesses, visit bbb.org.
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Subject:From the Law Office of Richard B. Frandsen --

I want to report that the latest commercial collection scam is alive and well. About 10 days ago I received an email from Gruppo Caraglio in Italy looking for someone to collect a $600K commercial debt against a local electrical contracting company. A Google search shows an apparent legit website for both creditor and debtor. It asked for rates and a confirmation there would be no conflict. I responded that we would be interested but provided nothing further. It came back asking for rates and confirmation of an absence of conflict. Deciding it was a scam I did nothing further. Today I received a “certified” check for $437,500 written on a Canadian bank with a short typed letter referring to this partial payment. I called the local “debtor” who knows nothing and does not recognize the signor. The letter had a Canadian postmark. On my bank’s recommendation I turned it over to a city cop who made a paper trail but confirmed he could do nothing. I am assuming I will receive a contact in the next few days congratulating me on the great collection (although no demand was sent) and the large certified check they assumed would be deposited in my trust account. I did not. I imagine they will ask me to send a good faith distribution of $25-30K until the certified funds clear. Needless to say I will not. I am good, but I have never collected a $437K check without contacting the debtor. I offer this information for your interest, and perhaps warning, only.
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Subject:Don't Become a Victim of Cashier's Check Fraud warns ABC-Amega, Inc.:

Cashier’s checks – checks issued by a bank – are considered by many to be risk-free. The funds are paid out by the bank, not the buyer. So, requiring a cashier’s check for payment from a customer seems very secure. And it is … as long as the check is genuine. Unfortunately, cashier’s check fraud has become a very popular crime. A December 2012 Notice from the Federal Trade Commission indicates that counterfeit check scams are on the rise, including scams involving cashier’s checks. High quality printers and scanners make it relatively easy to create counterfeits. The checks include names and real account and routing numbers and even authentic looking watermarks. Some fake checks look so good that even bank tellers can’t tell if they are real or a forgery. The law itself assists the counterfeiter in carrying out his crimes. Under federal law, your bank is required to make the funds from cashier and other bank checks available within one to five business days. It can take up to two weeks for the check to clear the banking system and for your bank to receive payment from the issuing bank. Some counterfeit checks are done so well that they move between banks for several weeks before the forgery is discovered. That allows plenty of time for the scammer to take the product and run, leaving you or your company to ‘take the hit’. If you deposit a cashier’s check that turns out to be counterfeit, your bank will reverse the deposit from your account. If you have already spent some or all of the money, you are responsible for paying it back to the bank. Your only recourse would be against the person who wrote the check in the first place. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to catch a counterfeiter, especially one who may have executed his crime several weeks before it was discovered. Many criminals perpetrating these scams are located in foreign countries, making it that much harder to find them and prosecute.
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Subject:Ken Boukis of Cleveland reports another scam

We wanted to put you on notice of the latest scam. An outfit is using the name "Simmons Steel Corporation" of Kapolei, Hawaii, claiming that they were referred for a collection case by attorney Roger L. Massengale of Paintsville, KY. We checked with attorney Massengale's office, and they confirmed the scam. They have received calls from numerous attorneys. Of course they never referred any claim.
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Subject:Warning! "Nigeria collection" or to whom it may concern

As our law firm offers collection in Germany for foreign companies as well as foreign debt collectors. Periodically we receive demands for collections of substantial amounts . In such requests by e-mail the person signing pretends to be a representative of a well-known company. But after some time this proves to be wrong. The potential creditor goes ahead signs the power of attorney and indicates that it might happen that the debtor will pay and by cheque before you start actions. Therefore you are asked to wait for a certain time. By pure” luck” forged foreign cheque arrives. Everybody is happy, the potential creditor generously asked you to deduct your fees and to wire the rest of the money to their account. International cheques cannot be checked and proved forged so quickly. During that period your bank will book the amount on your account with the small notice that the amount will be revoked if the cheque proves to be forged. As the whole communication is forged, forged e-mail address, but often correct Internet pages, wrong passports, wrong stamps and forged cheques some people may realize the illegal background of the actions too late. Those who wire the money will have lost it. Even if they don't wire the money to the potential creditor they will have the costs for accepting the cheques and the costs for transferring the amount back.

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Subject:CreditorWeekly.com sending fraudulent invoices to collection agencies

IACC recently received an email from a member alerting us to the fact that a company is sending out fraudulent invoices to collection agencies. Please see the links below for what that invoice may look like and also an article regarding this company. We hope this information is helpful. Thanks to our member for sharing!

http://www.commercialcollector.com/iacc/files/FakeInvoice.pdf

http://www.ripoffreport.com/collection-agency-s/creditorweekly-com/creditorweekly-com-zachary-rou-f4b57.htm


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Subject:Lawyer Who Says He Was Scammed Is Sued by Bank Re Fake $299K Cashier's Check

A Minnesota attorney says he was scammed into depositing what he thought was a real cashier's check for nearly $300,000 from a legitimate collection matter into the trust account for his solo law practice.

Now Lawrence Marofsky is being sued by TCF Bank in federal court in Minneapolis, reports the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.

He says he hopes to settle with the bank, but despite having malpractice coverage and some money "obviously, this hits hard," he tells the publication, warning other lawyers to watch out for similar fraud. "Make sure you find out that the check is in fact good, not from the bank you're dealing with, but from the original bank," he stated.

The article doesn't make clear exactly what happened concerning the fake $298,750 check that Marofsky received, but such scams often involve an out-of-area client who makes contact with the attorney by email or phone. A seemingly legitimate cashier's check for a large sum is received from a third party purportedly making a settlement in a matrimonial case or business dispute. Although the the attorney's bank cashes the check, it may in fact not have cleared the issuing bank at that point. By the time the fraud is discovered, the lawyer may already have paid the client his or her share and is held accountable for the shortfall

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Subject:Scammers prey on unwary consumers

Here are some common techniques used by scammers to prey on unwary consumers through the internet: http://newsminer.com/bookmark/20569712-Scammers-prey-on-unwary-consumers
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Subject:California man indicted on $5 million fraudulent debt collection scheme

Read the details here: http://www.centralvalleybusinesstimes.com/stories/001/?ID=21754
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Subject:7 California Debt Collection Companies Shut Down by Federal Court

Read the details here: http://www.credit.com/blog/2011/11/court-shuts-down-california-debt-collectors/
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Subject:Overseas Debt Collection Scam Calls

Advice for consumers to avoid overseas debt collection scam calls: http://www.credit.com/blog/2012/06/7-ways-to-stop-overseas-debt-collection-scam-calls/
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Subject:This scam has been reported from multiple sources

In recent days, we have received scam notices from lawyers who have been contacted by Gary Hossa asking for representation to collect a debt against a borrower (by the name of Eric Madison). Upon receiving related documents from "Mr. Hossa," a retainer is to be forwarded but likely will have insufficient funds. However, the trust account banking information may have been returned on the back of the negotiated retainer check, so that an effort could subsequently be made to try to raid the trust account. Here is the e-mail that was circulated:

Hello Counsel,
I am inquiring about the possibility of your firm representing me in the litigation of a loan matter.

Debtor: Eric Madison
Amount: $288,000.00
Amount 80,000
Balance $208,000.00 plus 7.75% annual interest.

If you or your firm can be of any assistance, please get back to me at your earliest convenience so I can send you related documents.

Your's Truly
Gary Hossa
Tel: 289-888-1869
Email: [garyhossa@gmail.com]



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Subject:From New Jersey Law Journal: Law Firm Can't Blame Bank for Loss on Foreign Client's Counterfeit Check

A Florham Park collections firm that lost nearly $100,000 in a phony-check scam will not be able to recoupt the money from its own bank. A Morris County judge found Levitan & Frieland to blame for the loss because it processed a check through a real estate trust account that allowed it expedited access to the funds before learning the check was counterfeit. The ruling leaves Levitan & Frieland out of pocket for the $96,410 it wired to South Korea. The firm had received an unsolicited email purportedly from a manufacturer of electrical fuses in Tokyo, that asked for help in collecting delinquent accounts in the U.S. After an email exchange, a signed retainer agreement was faxed to the firm. Two days later, an email from the client said an unnamed customer who owed it money was planning to make a payment to avoid being sued. A week later, a cashier's check arrived, sent via Fedex by an unknown party in Canada and purportedly drawn on Sun Trust Bank. The check was deposited in the firm's real estate trust account. Two days later the funds were available and partner Philip Levitan called a telephone number on the face of the check. "Pete", whom Levitan believed was a Sun Trust employee, told him the check was good. Later that day, they wired $96,410 to the purported South Korean supplier. The next morning, the firm's bank learned that Sun Trust was returning the check as counterfeit and notified the law firm. The firm sued its bank, but the judge found that the bank acted properly in charging back the amount of the check because when a bank accepts a check for deposit it gives only provisional credit for the funds until it can collect them from the payor bank. The bank has the right to get the money back if the check is dishonored.
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Subject:Fake inquiry from Action Bonding & Insurance Services, Inc. of Anaheim, CA

Case Law Firm reports that they received an inquiry by email from the President of the company, requesting debt collection services. The email used the actual email address and contact information for the company president, but when the attorney contacted her by telephone, she was advised that the purported sender really is the president of the company but did not send the email. The President advised that someone had hacked her email account and was sending emails to attorneys all over the world. She gets at least 5 inquiries a day from attorneys, and knows of some who have actually been duped and lost money. If you run into this, it is a scam!
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Subject:Lindenhurst Cutting Tool, Inc./Linderhurst Cutting Tool, Inc./ Richard Lunt Machinery

We accepted an Engagement from a company in Seattle by the name of Richard Lunt Machinery, Inc. The Lunt company is a legitimate company, incorporated in the state of Washington. I even received an Experian report on the Lunt company from a friend at the Seattle NACM. We were engaged to collect the sum of $585,760 from Lindenhurst Cutting Tool, Inc. (a NY corporation). We were asked to handle this at 10% if we could collect without resort to litigation. We were told the debtor had mad many promises to pay - that the debtor and Lunt had a cordial relationship - and that they hoped to continue the business relationship with Lindenhurst in the future. We were told that the expectation was that a simple demand or phone call from us would result in payment or a payment proposal. We received the signed Engagement letter from Lunt with an email saying that now that Linderhurst knew of our involvement, they would be making a partial payment within the next few days. That was last Saturday. In today's mail, we received a letter from Linderhurst Cutting Tool, Inc. together with an "official check" in the sum of $298,750.00. Until that moment, we thought we had a legitimate collection matter. My stomach turned and Frank's antennae went up - so we took the check to the bank. After a bank officer reviewed it and found no customer by the name of Linderhurst Cutting Tool, Inc. and further brought it to his operations manager, we were told that the check was phony. The one big clue is that on an "official check" the routing number does not appear where it did on this one. We immediately advised the client because we were not yet certain if the client was involved with the scam or was being hoodwinked itself. We have not heard back from the client – so that question is answered.
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Subject:Lawyers Targeted in $32M International Collections Scam

Reported in Collections & Credit Risk: Federal prosecutors have indicted six people in a $32 million international scam that victimized 80 attorneys in Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Canada. Five Nigerians and one Canadian are accused of wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy in the indictments, which follows a multi-year investigation by the FBI, Secret Service and the Postal Service. The alleged con involved a collection scam that used the lawyers as unwitting accomplices in check frauds against banks in Asia. The scam worked like this: An e-mail would seek a lawyer's help collecting a debt or other money. Then the lawyer would be contacted by a purported representative for the person or company owing the money who would offer to pay the debt. When the lawyer received the check, he or she would deposit it, and then would wire the funds to an Asian bank before discovering the check was fraudulent, according to ABA Journal. The indictment cites 300 other cases in which lawyers were approached by the con artists, in addition to those who were scammed.
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Subject:Fake email from United Metal Products

An email was received purporting to be from Ryan Jones of United Metal Products in Corona, California, and seeking collection services. It is a scam. I followed up with the "real" United Metal Products this morning and was told that the company has gotten several inquiries coming from this. While they do have a Ryan Jones, he was not the author of the email, and his email address is not the one from which this email was generated. The real company's phone number is 951.739.9535.
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Subject:Reported by Williams & Williams of Louisville, KY:

The perpetrator was portraying a real company -- Weiqiao Textile out of China -- and the alleged debtor company was real as well. Williams received a check in the amount of $462,400 which appeared to be an official bank draft on a well-known US bank. The perpetrator wanted it deposited and proceeds sent immediately, but luckily the check was identified as a fraud by the bank. "I guess if you stay in this business long enough, you see all kinds of scams."
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Subject:From Anthony Kelly, ALL IRELAND CREDIT SERVICES Ltd :

We were approached by e-mail by a Vincent L. Chow, purporting to be Vice President of a company called Sinoway Industrial (Shanghai) Co. Limited in China to collect a debt of some € 1,000,000 from an Irish company. We subsequently received a cheque for Stg.£ 225,000 out of the blue from the 'debtor' in question, which was accompanied by an official letter on what appeared to be a genuine company letterhead, asking us to confirm receipt of the cheque by email to them in order to comply with their 'potential fraud' procedures. We lodged the cheque and then we came under intense pressure from Sinoway to release the funds to them. As it is strict and standard operating procedure here NOT to release ANY funds to any client until we are 100% positive that the funds have cleared the banking system, we did not cave into their demands to pay over the monies. The cheque BOUNCED quite some time after lodgment, and it was returned to us by the bank marked 'potential fraud'. We have since received a call from the Fraud Investigator for the bank in question, and they have informed us that several firms - including at least one other Irish collection agency - have been scammed out of significant sums of money by these individuals. The actual cheque which was posted to us looked to all intents and purposes to be genuine. And the 'client' in question also provided us with an official-looking copy invoice relating to the debt and their own full company and contact details.
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Subject:Collection Scams discussion on Linked In

There is a discussion of similar Collection Scams for members of Linked In. Apparently it is not just American agencies and attorneys who have been targeted. The Linked In discussion can be found at http://www.linkedin.com/groupAnswers?viewQuestionAndAnswers&discussionID=14718516&gid=147103&commentID=12966346&trk=view_disc
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Subject:Foreign Law Firms seeking local counsel

I have received at least 2 solicitations to domesticate judgments entered in other countries. Has anyone received similar solicitations, and what verification have you requested. Two law firms have provided copies of pleadings, and the judgment entered.
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Subject:Published in the Connecticut Law Tribune, December 4, 2009:

At least two sizeable Connecticut law firms have fallen victim to sophisticated international swindlers posing as major European or Chinese companies in need of debt collection help. Attorney Richard Weinstein of West Hartford, Conn.'s Weinstein & Wisser, has personal knowledge of large Connecticut firms that have lost "several hundreds of thousands of dollars." Lawyers are particularly vulnerable, Weinstein says. "When a firm endorses a check to deposit it into their clients' funds account, they are standing behind the check and guaranteeing to the bank that the funds are good." Funds can be deemed "available" in a day or two, but it may takes weeks before the issuing bank dishonors the counterfeit check. If lawyers have, in the meantime, drawn upon the funds, they can suffer big financial losses. Connecticut lawyer Daniel Blinn, who heads the Consumer Law Group, recognizes the scam as a variation on other schemes that have targeted the elderly and defenseless. Now, he says, they have lawyers in their crosshairs.
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Subject:Another suggestion for dealing with suspicious inquiries

We, too, received a suspicious solicitation for collection services from a real company identifying a real person with the company. I replied, and asked them to give me a contact at their country's embassy in Washington, D.C. for verification purposes.

Never got a further response.

Richard A. Golden
Golden & Golden, P.C.
Fairfax, VA
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Subject:My SPAM buster e-mail reads as follows:

Thank you for your e-mail of today.

I have reviewed your website.

However, for us to undertake work of the nature that you suggest for a company that we do not know and whose principals we likewise do not know, we would need a substantial level of comfort in order to comply with the money laundering regulations that apply in situations such as this.

You and your co-directors and principal shareholders will need to send me details of their names and addresses and copies of their passports. You will need to send me a copy of your Memorandum of Association and Articles of your company with copies of your last accounts and Annual Return.

You will need to provide me with the name and address of your bankers in Hong Kong and elsewhere so that I might secure banking references from them.

If you are willing and able to comply with these regulatory requirements - and do so - I shall then let you know what else we need in order to incept any instructions from you.

We also need to know from where you obtained our address and information.

Please also explain, if you would, why you have sent circular letters, it would appear, to many different law firms. I have also received an e-mailed request for representation from another person in your company. You will need to assuage all our concerns before we are able to proceed any further.

Keith Berman
Bermans
New York, NY

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Subject:Here's another one for the record book.

I received an email from Isao Kokubun, who claimed to represent Sega Toys, which is a real company. He even referenced their actual website, but his message came from a gmail email address:

"I am delighted to inform you that I received a message from a customer, one of whom I had informed of our intended action of hiring your law firm to get our monies owed to our company. They are willing to pay $348,540 a part of the money owed to avoid litigation brought against them and to pay the balance $320,600 by the end of october. Please, I would like you to immediately send me your information needed to receive the payment. The customer is making the payment in Bank draft or certified cheque as I was informed that the funds would be made available upon deposit. However, you will have your retainer fee or contingency deducted from this sum and this will give us a good note to start off as agreed by my board of directors."

By the way, for fun, I wrote back and told him that I needed a $10,000 retainer in advance to accept such a large responsibility. Needless to say, no response.

Howard E. Kantrovitz
Kantrovitz & Brownstein, P.C.
New Haven, CT
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Subject:Internet Scams

My firm recently received two of the so called international commercial collection placements. One from a Dr. M.S. Lin with Asia Pacific Microsystems Inc. and a Darren Albert with Concord Electrical Pte Ltd Singapore.
Like the other postings here, the emails arrived in broken English and before you have even so much sent a demand letter to the alleged defendant (and each time the alleged defendants are legitimate corporations in Va) we receive an "Official Cashiers Check" on a Citibank account with the request that we keep our fee and remit the balance. Amusingly, the checks, for over a half a million dollars, arrive in a plain white envelope, no return address, our address handwritten in ink, and bear a Canadian postmark.
Rather than remit, haha, we prefer to turn these checks over to the local branch of the FBI and they in turn contact their Taiwan unit.

R. Bruce Fickley, Esq.
Law Office of R. Bruce Fickley, P.C.
Roanoke, VA

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Subject:DyTooling Co

I received an email from Raymond Chu at the above named company. I was pretty sure it was a scam but agreed to follow through for him. He signed a fee agreement and forwarded a contract and invoice. After one perfunctory letter to the debtor, he immediately remitted about $250,000, and even called to confirm that we had received the check.

I took it to the bank immediately and turned it over to the fraud person who determined that the serial number on the check, and the phone number of the debtor were both frauds. The serial number is a very hard thing to track as that is not the usual fraud.

I then called the debtor, which is an actual company, that had reported 13 other incidents of this scam in the past 2 weeks. He has turned everything over to the FBI. I added my correspondence and a copy of the check to the cache.

I then emailed the creditor, a Raymond Chu and told him we had determined that the check was a fraud. I have not heard from him since.
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Subject:This one is unique... Still a phishing trip

Dear Counsel.

My name is Linda Cheng. I am a contacting your firm in regards to a divorce settlement with my ex husband(Randy L. Cheng) who resides in your jurisdiction. I am currently on assignment in Japan. We had an out of court agreement for him to pay $350,450.00 plus legal fees. He has only paid me $50,000 since .I am hereby seeking your firm to represent me in collecting the balance from him. He has agreed already to pay me the balance but it is my belief that a Law firm like yours is needed to help me collect payment from my ex-husband or litigate this matter if he fails to pay as promised.

Sincerely
Linda Cheng.


Mark U Abendroth, Attorney
Abendroth and Russell P.C.
2536 73rd Street
Des Moines Iowa 50322-4700

515.278.0138 ext 211 voice
515.278.0091 fax

MAbendroth@ARPCLaw.com


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Subject:Internet Scams

I too have received these e-mail scams. They take various forms, but I can offer these suggestions to stop these people in their tracks. When I received one that appeared to come from another attorney in Texas, I contacted the Texas Bar for her telephone number. It turned out that she was a family law attorney and had no idea that her name was being used in a scam. The information in the e-mail gave a phony telephone number and e-mail address which was answered by the scammers. The first suggestion is to independently verify the client. The second suggestion is to tell the new client that you will set up a separate trust account for their matter and that you will wait four weeks until the "debtor's" check clears. The trick is that the "debtor" will send you a counterfeit cashiers check. You deposit in your trust account and your bank clears it immediately because you are a good customer. Your phony client insists on immediate payment. When the air clears, your trust account is over drawn and you are explaining this to your Bar Association. By having a separate trust account for this client and waiting four weeks, you have eliminated the problem. If you issue the check to the "client" on the separate trust account without waiting, then the "client" will threaten you when your bank discovers the cashier's check is counterfeit. I watched the Mafia pull this off in Oklahoma using the Bank of Sark as its alleged bank. When the Oklahoma banker wanted his money back, the "gentleman" told him he would give him his money back in exchange for his check. Naturally, the banker could not produce the check.

Stephen M. Losh
Beverly Hills Law Associates
Beverly Hills, CA.
310-552-2490
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Subject:Quanzhou Haitian Textile Co.Ltd

I have also had an approach from a
Mr. Lo Chin Jack .
Legal Representative/Owner,
Quanzhou Haitian Textile Co.Ltd.
Website: http://www.htt.cn
Email: lochinjac-khtt-cn@live.com

I did not hear any more from him once I told him we would require a take on fee for us to handle any debts for them.

Regards
Roy Whitehouse.
http://www.debt-collections-portugal.com

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Subject:Mr. Lim Chow - Ably Metal Industries, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

We receive many fraudulent email scams almost daily, but this one was a little bit different in that it was addressed to me personally. Mr. Chow had corresponded using a msn.com email address, and I suspected that it was a fraud, but I thought I would check it out and so corresponded with ALQ's listee in Kuala Lumpur to see if they might know this company. They responded to me as follows: "Our KL office did a check on this company and person and got the following report: The subject company address is correct and the contact no. is 603-27110355 but there is no Mr. Lim Chow."
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Subject:California Bar Journal reports E-mail scams continue to successfully target lawyers

The State Bar of California has issued an alert to lawyers about the proliferation of lawyer-aimed scams. Here is a link to the full report published in the July 2009 California Bar Journal:

http://calbar.ca.gov/state/calbar/calbar_cbj.jsp?sCategoryPath=/Home/Attorney%20Resources/California%20Bar%20Journal/July2009&sCatHtmlPath=cbj/2009-07_TH_01_scams.html&sCatHtmlTitle=Top%20Headlines


Submitted by Jacqueline Anker, Santa Barbara, CA
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Subject:Okay, you can add us to the list.

We get an email out of London soliciting our service for an account in Canada. Due to the recent surge in these things we asked for copy of the invoice as well as their notes on collection activity. They provided same and frankly the collection notes were extensive!!! The phone numbers were working. It looked real.

We then find not only were we talking with this prospect but he also had been dealing with our Louisville office on the same claim but under different names with the invoice dated three months apart. I then question the client as to "two claims" as well as why were they dealing with both offices independently and not telling either of what was happening. They did not respond to the latter but did say there were two accounts and to only pursue the end receiver as he had contacted the client advising that money was being overnighted to us.

The next morning we get an email from the debtor who had not been contacted by us. I "wonder" how he got our email!!! He wanted us to know a check was sent via UPS and we should get it right away. Within the hour we did get a check delivered by UPS for $282,177.41. We contacted our bank who put us in contact with an officer of the supposed bank on which the check was drawn. They immediately confirmed it was not valid.

We have since received emails from the "debtor" and "client" asking for confirmation and yes remittance.

I have spoken with the FBI who referred me to the Secret Service. They do not handle this because we suffered no monetary lose but did take a statement. They did provide a website maintained by the government for us to note the issue for others to see. I have also alerted the CLLA of the incident with names. They have been providing warnings but say there is not much else they can do.

Ed Burton, CST Company


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Subject:My Own Experience with an Internet Scammer

I recently decided I wanted to see how these scams work so I answered an e-mail that sought our services from China ( maybe ) . Their e-mail was very good; they responded correctly and asked for a retainer agreement; They signed the retainer, gave me the creditor and debtor info and the claim. I googled them and the debtor, all looked legit. The address in New Jersey was good. Claim was almost $ 500,000. Immediately they sent me an e-mail saying that my letter was responded to directly to them and they were talking settlement directly but assured me that my fee was protected. About a week later they said it was settled but that the debtor was sending a cashiers check to me for ½ the amount and the balance would be paid next month. I received a FedX with a Citicorp official check for $ 285,000. The FedX package was from Canada. The letter enclosing looked good from New Jersey. The check was supposed to be from the Delaware office of Citibank.

I took the check to my local Citibank and they confirmed it was counterfeit. The client had sent me an e-mail stating that since the check was a cashier check from a bank I could forward the amount less our fee within 48 hours. I advised the client that unfortunately I could not send them any money since as they were aware the check was a counterfeit. Haven’t heard back from the client as yet.

Marc J. Bressler, Esq.
Bressler-Duyk Law Firm
Edison, NJ




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Subject:"Presently incapacitated"

Many of these things say the company is "presently incapacitated" regarding payments. Interesting how so many use this. I have an email agent/rule that automatically dumps anything with "presently incapacitated" into spam. That way my time is not wasted.

Bob Bernstein (Pittsburgh)
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Subject:Great Opportunity!

Dinther Helmut Udo of Bern, Switzerland has asked me to pretend that I am the beneficiary of his "foreign customer who died along side with his entire family" and I will receive $7.5 million in unclaimed funds. For the privilege of participating in his scam, I get to keep 30% - WOW! Anybody who would like a piece of this can contact dinther300@sify.com -- Good luck!!
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Subject:CCAA member reports fraudulent use of their bank account information

Here is another version of the internet scams that are going around. A CCAA member discovered that someone had obtained their bank account information and was issuing fraudulent checks encoded with their account and routing information. The checks were being sent to individuals who were instructed to deposit the checks, and then when they had cleared, the individual was instructed to remit via Western Union to an individual in Russia, less a commission or finder's fee of 10%. The checks were clearing the agency's bank, even though the check numbers were duplicates of checks which had previously cleared. The scam was only uncovered because the agency carefully reconciled its banking statements and noticed check numbers out of sequence.
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Subject:Coface confirms fraudulent use of their name

Recently emails were sent to a number of U.S. agencies which appeared to emanate from Grace Wong of Coface Greater China Services in Hong Kong. The real Grace Wong is a member of CLLA. A representative of Coface North America confirmed that Grace Wong had not sent these messages, and the email address used was not hers.
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Subject:Chang Chin Hon of Quanzhou Haitian Textile Co. Ltd.

We get these messages, similar to your sample, almost every day. The names change, but the stories are all very similar. Has anybody figured out how to block them?
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Subject:Close call

We received an email from a Chinese company that actually exists, signed by an individual who actually works for that company, and it referenced a debtor company in the U.S. which actually exists. But we were suspicious and asked ALQ if they had any idea whether this was for real. Their contacts in China checked it out and advised that the individual at the creditor company had not sent the email, and that the email address used in the message was not his. If we had not checked, we would have assumed that the deal was legit.

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Subject:Patrick K.W. Chan of Hang Seng Bank Ltd, Hong Kong

Hope nobody fell for this one . He writes:
I am Mr. Patrick K. W. Chan Executive Director & Chief Financial Officer of Hang Seng Bank Ltd, Hong Kong. I have a lucrative business proposal of mutual interest to share with you; it involves the transfer of a large sum of money from my bank here in Hong Kong. I got your reference in my search for someone who suits my proposed business relationship. If you are interested in working with me contact me through my private email pkchwain@yahoo.com.hk for further details.



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