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 email@example.com or 604.697.5816. In Ontario, if you have been targeted by this fraud, please forward any of the emails you have received to firstname.lastname@example.org. Most other law societies will also provide assistance if you think you’re being scammed.