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Cheque scammers at it again

|Written By Gail J. Cohen

The Law Society of British Columbia has posted a warning on its web site of another variation on the bad cheque scam that’s been plaguing the profession, particularly real estate practitioners.

In this case, the scamsters are using a fake Toronto-based law firm named Wagner Elliot LLP and a relatively sophisticated fraudulent web site to fool lawyers into believing it is a real law firm. The scamsters hope to trick you into paying out on a phony trust cheque, certified cheque or bank draft, says the LSBC.

Although Wagner Elliott LLP is used as the bogus site in this scam, the details — including the fake law firm used — may vary. Here’s generally how the scam works:
•    You are contacted by a new client who claims to live in another country (e.g. Japan) and wants you to act on a conveyance.
•    The client has used a B.C. realtor to make an offer to purchase with subjects on a residential property in B.C.
•    The realtor sends you the signed contract of purchase and sale.
•    The client tells you that they will have their Wagner Elliot LLP lawyer, based in Toronto, send you the funds.
•    You receive a well made but phony instrument for deposit into your trust account.
•    Soon after you deposit the funds into trust, the client contacts you to say that they aren’t removing the subjects and to please return the funds.
•    If you write a trust cheque before learning that the instrument was bad, you’ve been scammed.

As well, today in a post on the Avoid A Claim blog of Ontario’s practicePro, notes that a lawyer in California contacted him to say that he’s received an e-mail from that purports to come from lawyer named Marcus Davis at this same firm.

For lawyers in B.C., If you suspect a new client may be a scamster and you are looking for advice, contact LSBC practice adviser Barbara Buchanan at bbuchanan@lsbc.org or 604.697.5816. In Ontario, if you have been targeted by this fraud, please forward any of the emails you have received to fraudinfo@lawpro.ca. Most other law societies will also provide assistance if you think you’re being scammed.

  • Sharon
    Did anyone notice that if you Google the "address" of the fake law firm that it also brings you to a website where a 1 bedroom condo - at that address - is for sale for $21,500 in Toronto and they ask that "Deposit To Be Certified To 'Gowlings'"???

    This sends many red flags up for me...

    Here is the link:

    http://hotpads.com/real-estate/4645-Jane-Street-Toronto-ON-CA--4baw1nj6ru9e3

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