Lawyers Beware! New Scam Involves Fake Clients, Forged Bank Checks

NJ & NY divorce lawyer Paul Goldhamer, Esq. is a founding partner at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman. In addition to practicing matrimonial and estate law, Mr. Goldhamer has a busy schedule of lectures, teaching, and media appearances. Among many accomplishments, he helped launch the establishment of free legal seminars for the public in New York and New Jersey. Mr. Goldhamer was honored as a “Super Lawyer” by Superlawyers.com in 2014.

From Paul Goldhamer, Esq.:

Here’s another scam:

A lawyer receives an email or letter asking them to represent someone in a collection for money due from either a local vendor or a recalcitrant spouse. It’s usually a sizable odd amount like $253,978. The client is out of state or out of country and you have to send them the retainer by email. They sign, return it and authorize you to commence action on a contingency.

You prepare the papers and sue the Defendant, who appears to be local. The husband or defendant corporation responds immediately with all sorts of apologies & guarantees to pay it right away. Good to their word, a bank check arrives for the full amount. You notify your client that you are a hero & you’ve successfully collected the money and you deposit it in your escrow account.

An attorney is obligated to disburse money collected on behalf of a client within 15 days. However, banks although they will tell you checks are cleared in three days in state & 14 days out of state, have a clause in their contract when you opened up the account that states that any adjustment on the account can be corrected by the bank beyond the clearing period and they will make adjustments months later.

The check you were given is a brilliant forgery or a ‘kited’ check, (money drawn from & through a series of accounts to each other where the check writer depends on the lag time between banks to “float a loan of the money”) or maybe even an account that actually exists, but has little or no money in it.

You deposit the money in your escrow account and the bank tells you it’s cleared. But, your bank is wrong, because the check is either fake or not backed up by any money at the time they need to transfer the money. In the meantime, your crooked client (usually a woman in distress) claims to have suffered an accident or has some type of an emergency and needs money immediately. They call you and beg you to transfer their share of the collection you received because of their emergency and tell you to take your fee. The dumb lawyer in this case thinks he made $75,000 in a day or two. (If it is too good to be true… it isn’t.)

A month later, the lawyer’s bank notifies them that the check is no good and they are withdrawing the money that they paid on his escrow check to the client from his other accounts.

This is an actual legal case and the lawyers were unsuccessful in their claim against the bank and the bank was successful in the claim against the lawyer for paying out monies not backed by sufficient funds. There are various scams like this that operate under different techniques.

Someone contacts you because you have an item for sale. They send you a third-party check greatly in excess of the items they bought. They tell you to keep an extra 20% or $100 for your trouble & ask you to send them a check refund for the difference. There is always a big rush, because someone is very sick & in the hospital. They send a delivery person to pick-up the merchandise. The sucker gives away the merchandise for a fake check and sends a real & good check as change. Always get cash for the sale. Do not take any type of check.

Both of these scams rely on the hope that the seller or vendor is greedy & will jump for the quick buck.

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