Friday, July 24, 2015

It's Harder To Cheat Honest Men

But the fraudsters are getting more clever.

I had a referral from another attorney regarding a commercial matter.

I communicated with the potential client by email, but noted they had a gmail address. Their address however checked out as a Michigan company. I also spoke to the person by phone - the area code was correct for the location of their company in Michigan but the guy had a rather strong African accent. Some indications from the conversation had me thinking something wasn't quite right.

He indicated he had not been paid by another Michigan company and wanted to retain us. I check it out and the company mentioned is a real company. We discussed rates and I sent him a retainer letter.

He returns it signed via email but his email message accompanying it is very strange indeed.

Here's the bulk of it:

We have been communicating with our debtor, Kevin Kayne of IMAGE MACHINE & TOOL INC, over the past few days regarding our intention to take legal action against them, we have informed them that your firm is now in charge of the claim and that any further communication should be directed to your office. However, they have stated clearly that they want an out of court settlement, thereby pleading for time to set up the payment. As I have earlier anticipated, We prefer to reach an informal resolution and still maintain a good relationship with our client. This Morning, I received a call from Kevin Kayne, that they will make a partial payment of the money owed to us to avoid any legal action against them and also will be responsible for our attorney's fee as stated in our contract agreement. He stated that the reason for the delay in payment was that the goods were shipped to their subsidiary office in Canada. We strongly believe that they have resolved to make this payment due to our recent involvement with your firm in this matter. The high reputation of your firm has played a great role in this recent development.

They have promised to send the partial payment directly to your office on or before 24th of July, 2015 and the balance will be sent on the 28th of August, 2015 to avoid any lawsuit. I suggest we take no action for now, neither do you make any form of contact with them but wait till the requested date for them to come up with the payment, and if they should fail to make good their promise this time, then we can proceed accordingly.

Please, be rest assured that if your office should receive this payment as promised by our debtor, your fee will be paid according to the agreement.

I await your acknowledgment of this email and also give me a call if you have any questions.

At which point I'm about 95% sure I'm now dealing with a Nigerian-type scam. Note that both Kevin Kayne is a real person and Image Machine and Tool Inc are real companies in Michigan and they're not to blame for this matter but are being impersonated here as is the real person and company on letter writers end. The language is off as is the content. Michigan business people do not write this way.

I reply that since we haven't done anything he might as well have the payment go direct to their company. I look up his phone number and note while it has the same area code and prefix of the actual company the last four numbers do not match. Could be a direct extension, but that's another indicia something is off.

Today I was 100% sure it was a fraud.

Today we get in the mail an envelope, with no return address, but stating "Image Machine Tool Inc", with a Canadian stamp and a processing mark that shows it came out of Toronto. Inside is a letter and a Scotia Bank Check drawn on a New York bank for $197,950 made out not to the company but to our firm. Yeah, its fraud all right.

Clue #1 - The check doesn't have the banks address on it. However, they've clearly done some homework as the routing number is the right number for that bank and while the paper doesn't feel right they have some darn good coloration and double sided. It helps that I've held a real Scotia Bank bank check before and know it feels off. Second the amount is goofy as is the script for it on the check and it looks like it was printed on a laser color printer, albeit a very good one.

Clue #2 - The letter is on a very non-business-like colored paper. The paper though has the Michigan address for the company on it and is "signed" by "Kevin Kayne" but has a wacky gmail address of Remember, the envelope came from Canada.

So, I contact the Bank of Nova Scotia and verify that it is indeed a fake check. So I obviously do not deposit it and the scammers will be rather disappointed.

They're certainty getting more clever, but that was far too pat indeed. It and would only con either someone who was greedy or lacked the reading and thinking skills to pickup on the scam.


raven said...

So how does the scammer get paid? You would deposit the check,and before it bounced they would ask you to remit the money to them?

Aaron said...

Exactly. It would go into our IOLTA account and the bank would typically release the funds in about 5 days, but the check would take longer than that to clear through the system and then guess who would get hammered for it?

I'm sure they would request the funds be wired to them thus giving them a quick getaway. I halfway wonder if they would show up if I would demand to meet them in person to give them the proceeds .....

Old NFO said...

You don't want a face to face, unless you have cops waiting... Just sayin...