Updated: Aug. 21, 2018

Reported Fraud Schemes Affecting the Public and Legal Profession

As a service to our members and the public, the WSBA provides information about reported scams targeting lawyers, legal service providers and legal services consumers. The Bar does not have authority to investigate these scams. Fraud schemes may be reported to the Washington State Attorney General's Office, The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), or Federal Trade Commission

Fake Lawyer Discipline Complaints

Targeted population: Lawyers in several states

What to expect: Email pretending to be from state bar with link or attachment asking lawyer to respond to a complaint. Link is ransomware and may make all data on the computer inaccessible or compromise client data until a fee is paid.

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More information (This article courtesy of the Florida Bar)

Tax Software Update Phishing Scam

Targeted population: Tax Professionals

What to expect: Emails sent to tax professionals pretending to be from tax software company. Emails offer link to "software update," but actually installs a key stroke tracker.

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Tax and Penalty Payment Scam

Targeted population: Businesses in Tri-Cities area

What to expect: Phone call with caller ID displaying Washington Department of Revenue's Richland office number. Caller threatens and demands immediate payment of back taxes and penalties.

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Real Estate Wire Instructions Scams

Targeted population: Lawyers and other holding real estate transaction funds

What to expect: Email with last-minute change in escrow funds wiring instructions. Email appears to be from a person legitimately involved in the transaction, but is actually from a hacked email account. The money could be wired to the hacker's bank account.

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Jury Duty Scam

Targeted population: Lawyers and public nationwide

What to expect: Email with link or attachment or phone message demanding payment or personal information to quash an arrest warrant issued for failure to appear for jury duty.

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Court Appearance Data Scam

Targeted population: Lawyers and public nationwide

What to expect: Email with subject line "Urgent court notice NR#73230 (or another random number)," attaching a fake hearing notice. If you open the attachment, it may download a virus to your computer.

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Counterfeit Check Scam (IOLTA)

Targeted population: Lawyers

What to expect: Prospective client contacts lawyer, often for debt collection matter. Lawyer receives what appears to be valid cashier’s check from reputable bank — supposedly settlement funds from the debtor (often a real company). Or the client sends a check for more than the agreed fee. After the lawyer deposits the check, the client asks the lawyer to wire the funds, less the fee, (or refund the overpayment) to a foreign bank. The lawyer wires the funds and then learns the cashier’s check was fraudulent.

More information:

Check Fraud Scams: Be Alert to Phishing - How Not to Fall Prey

Anatomy of a Fraud from The Lawyerist

Email Scams and Lawyer Trust Accounts from ARDC


Washington State Supreme Court Clerk Scam

Targeted Population: Washington Residents with Hispanic Last Names

What to Expect: Phone call demanding money and threating arrest. Callers pose as the Washington State Supreme Court Clerk. The Supreme Court will never threaten people with arrest or demand payment.

More Information (This article courtesy of Washington State Office of the Attorney General)