Law Practice Management and Technology

The Bottom Line Volume 37, No 2 April 2016

They’re BAAAACK! Avoiding Foreign Email Representation Scams

By Dennis Wm. Johnson

Attorney Steve and I were on our regular bike ride up Yokohl Valley when he turned to me and said “Hey, have I told you about my new Japanese client?” I knew this had to be a joke or a story because Steve doesn’t divulge confidences (as a banker, I don’t tell him about my borrowers… heaven knows what we can talk about on these rides).

He said a Japanese corporation had emailed him wanting his help in collecting a past due invoice from a well-known American company with a branch office in our little city. The amount at issue was several hundred thousand dollars. Steve had done some checking on the Tokyo company and they appeared legitimate, but he wasn’t sure the request was legitimate, so he told them before he’d do anything he would need a sizeable retainer. He figured they would go away.

A week later he received a check for the retainer and a note saying the American company had caved and agreed to pay the past due invoice when they heard the Japanese had hired Steve. The Japanese had directed the American company to send its past due invoice payable to their attorney, Steve. All he needed to do was to deposit the check and then wire the funds to their Tokyo bank. Oh, and for such fine representation he should keep the entire retainer even though he hadn’t even written a letter!

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