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Watch out for email scams!

Email and telephone frauds are proliferating through the attorney community, and have been redirected at other professionals. On the message board for the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, one of my attorney colleagues provided a story from one of his clients: “a consulting engineer who frequently testifies in litigation, was retained by a bonding company in Colorado regarding a dispute with a construction company in Pittsburgh. Luckily he smelled a rat when they announced that a disbursement would be run through his company account.”


The attorney wrote that “The scam [has] two basic frameworks: attorneys are either offered a domestic relations (collection of arrearage from a divorce settlement, obtained by collaborative law) or a commercial collection (judgment against a supplier or vendee). It is quite intricate and superficially authentic, with live people to contact on the phone. The punch line involves clearing a compromise settlement check through the attorney’s trust account, basically exploiting the difference between a provisional credit, after three days and the right of an issuing bank to reject a forged cashier’s check much later.”

Generally, you can identify the fraud when the email promises to pay you in advance for your work, asking you to deposit the “funds” in your account, then to forward a payment using those funds. What happens is that within days, the check deposited in your account will be rejected by the bank, even if a cashier’s check, because the signature is a forgery. Unfortunately, the victim will have already made payment from their account. The scammer gets the money, the victim has no recourse.

Before you think that these frauds only work on the naive and unthinking, I am personally aware of a fellow attorney, whom I respect greatly, falling prey to a scam. He responded to a request from a prospective client to provide legal assistance regarding a support payment due to the “client’s” former spouse. One thing led to another and my friend lost $5,000.

The FBI links to this website for victim’s stories. Be wary, “con men” is a term for “confidence men.” Scammers try to gain your “confidence” so it is not always overtly obvious that the “con man” is trying to “con” you.

You can report scammers to the FBI and the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team. The Secret Service has its own website of information as well. To reiterate, be wary!

Tarley Robinson, PLC, Attorneys and Counsellors at Law

Williamsburg, Virginia

John Tarley

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John Tarley

John is the firm's managing partner and chairs the firm's small business, zoning, and litigation practice areas.

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