THE Law Society of NSW has warned its member firms about a scam in which a fake client requests advice in a debt collection matter.
Law firms have been landed with variations of the same scam, in which they are contacted by an overseas company, allegedly based in Japan, Mainland China or Hong Kong, requesting advice.
Just when law firms are more desperate for work in the global economic downturn, and are more likely to fall for such scams, the false clients are deliberately targeting bruised law practices.
"In one case the debtor company advised of had a brand in Australia and an email from the prospective client indicated that there has been agreement to a part payment of the debt," the Law Society warns.
"Following the acceptance of the instructions an envelope arrived by express post at the practices, which contained a bank cheque drawn on a US bank for $US250,000 in one case and $US470,000 in another, as well as an invoice relating to the debtor and creditor companies. The cheques were deposited to the practice's trust account," it said last week.
"It must be recognised that the clearance time for a cheque drawn on an overseas bank is far greater than that of an account in Australia.
"In the meantime, the client pressed for payment by EFT to an account in an overseas country, less the practice's retainer fee. The branch of the debtor company was contacted and they advised that the circumstances of the debt and cheque in question were not known to their company.
In one instance, a practice received scanned PDF documents, including an invoice with an Australian debtor, certificate of incorporation, certificate of quality certification and passport. The bank cheques in question were not met by the US bank who advised that the cheques in question were not genuine."
The Law Society warned firms to take case to ensure that any cheque has been cleared and that cleared funds are held in the trust account before it can be drawn against.
"Practices across Australia are now receiving these fraudulent emails. From information received, it would appear that there are more than one set of scammers involved, as some of the emails and documentation are more sophisticated than others."