Advance Fee Scams Are Based On Greed, So Their New Favorite Target? Lawyers!
from the first-thing,-we... dept
While the “classic” Nigerian 419 “advance fee” scam was based on telling someone they had been awarded/won millions of dollars, which is just held up by bureaucratic problems, a popular variation that’s been around for years is buying something online with a bogus check written for significantly more than the amount sold. This scam hit eBay users pretty hard for a while. Basically, it relies on a fundamental misunderstanding of how check processing works. As an example, a check for $10,000 is sent on an item that only costs $2,000, with the buyer asking the seller to send back a check for the difference along with the product. The seller deposits the check and a few days later the bank says that the check “cleared.” Banks have to clear the checks in a short period of time. Then the buyer sends off the product and the excess money… only to find out a few days (usually about a week or so) later, that the check is a forgery and the money is gone (along with the product and the legitimate “difference” check that was sent out).
The real issue here is that banks say the check “cleared” which people assume means that the check is legit. But it’s not. Fix this problem and this particular scam would disappear overnight.
Of course, most of these scams are based on playing on someone’s greed. To brush aside anyone’s concerns on these types of deals, sometimes the buyer will ask for only some of the difference back, making the seller think they actually got away with making more money.
But, if you’re going to base on a scam on greed, why prey just on small-fry eBay sellers? Why not go after the bigger dogs… like lawyers? You might assume that lawyers would be more sophisticated and not as quick to fall for this sort of thing, but at least with some (and, no, I’m not painting all lawyers with this brush), you’d be wrong. Earlier this year, we wrote about a lawyer who fell for exactly this trick… and then (of course) sued Citibank for letting him make this mistake — which cost his firm nearly $200,000. Not bad for a simple scam… and thus, it appears that more lawyers are being targeted with just such a scam, even to the point that local bar associations are warning lawyers to watch out for it.