We all know of creative and incessant attempts to defraud us of our hard-earned money, many (but not all) internet- and email-based. But nonetheless (i) the efforts of snooker us never stop, and (ii) we must constantly tell others in our family and our organization to be wary. Eternal vigilance is a business and personal requisite these days. The criminals are absolutely relentless.
Just this last week, our firm and my family were “almost” taken in by two of these international criminals:
- Our firm (because we have a great web site and use internet marketing tools) constantly gets “new client inquiries” (usually via our web portal or regular email) from fraudsters asking us “do you review contracts?” or “can you sue someone for us?,” pretty generic and bland (but transparently fraudulent) inquiries. I generally just “delete,” but one of these made it to one of our newer associates. It was a client from Dubai who wanted us to assert certain contractual claims against another party. We did so, and the matter instantly settled with a $385,000 certified check payable to our firm escrow account. The fraudulent client then wanted us to wire the escrowed monies to him and a third party, both overseas (major red flag there!). Fortunately, our crack bookkeeping staff saw the certified check was dishonored before we wired out the funds — disaster averted!. But it was a close call.
[Something to note about these fraudulent inquiries: (i) they never want to communicate via telephone (but rather by email), (ii) the phone number they provide is always bad, and (iii) they always have some bland *@Gmail address.” I sometimes respond to the email address they provide “please call me,” and they never do. I call the phone number and it is bad for one reason or another.]
- Sunday, right before the Superbowl, I stopped to have lunch with my wife. She related to me that a piece of furniture she had for sale in Facebook Marketplace had sold to a buyer in California. He was going to send us “certified funds” and then wanted us to pay his moving company to bring the piece to California. “Wait a minute,” I said. “why would we pay his mover,” and it vaguely reminded me of a fraud scheme I had heard from a client or read about on the internet. Sure enough, I Googled “pay the mover” and found out this is a common scam. You wire or pay funds to a mover, and later the “certified funds” are dishonored. The victim is “out” the moving fee and the scammer never intended to pay for your furniture! My wife told the would-be buyer that we would hold the “certified funds” for 10 days before shipping the goods, and he went radio silent immediately. Fraudster!
Our firms, and our title company in particular, are attacked by fraudsters almost daily. Fortunately, we are alert to the most common scams, and have avoided them all (we have clients who have not been so lucky). But these two close calls — at the office and at home – remind us that vigilance is required and gullibility, and trust, in the internet era are simply foolish!
Be cautious with your funds and your property. There are loads of fraudsters — some anonymous on the internet and some that you think are your friends — who will gladly and shamelessly steal your money and leave you wondering why you fell for their scam!
Be cautious! Be aware! Trust very few.