Please be aware of international scams targeting local legal practitioners.
In the most recent instance a local firm has been approached to represent a Chinese based company in respect of the sale of a dredger valued at US$2,900,000. The request was made via the law practice’s website.
An internet search of the seller indicates an apparently legitimate Chinese based company established in 1990. A similar search for the buyer will indicate a legitimate Australian based company with National offices. As part of the scam websites for the companies concerned also appear to be established. A basic internet search does not raise any concerns as registered offices are correctly stated or appear to be correct.
After agreeing to act the legal practice is often provided with a retainer agreement and is then provided with a forged bank cheque to be deposited to the trust account. Soon after the cheque is received, generally by UPS or some other international courier company, a request is made for partial release of funds, normally by way of bank transfer and often to an international bank.
The warning signs
- no face to face meeting with the clients
- no advance payments will be received by the solicitor from the client
- communications will be via email and the email address may be via free web mail accounts
What to do
- ask where they found the law practice
- obtain a signed costs agreement
- obtain funds to be held in trust
- contact the other party involved via telephone, from white pages listing not an internet search
- if a cheque is received do not release any portion of the funds until your bank confirms clearance
- contact the trust account inspectors firstname.lastname@example.org at the Legal Practice Board, who may already be aware of the scam