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Avoiding Check Scams
With an increase in reported check scams, it is important to watch for red flags in emails requesting legal work.
Here is a checklist of questions to ask before you act!

  • Is the email requesting legal services outside your usual practice area?
  • Why are they asking you to handle the transfer of a foreign asset or medical equipment?

  • Does the email have any specific information relating to you or your practice or is it extremely general and vague?
  • Many of the first solicitations by fraudster for legal work do not include any specific information.

  • Is the email in response to your website or referral source or is it unexpected?
  • How many email solicitations have you received from legitimate clients that have referenced the referral source as "the attorney bar association"? Generalized information is a red flag.

  • Is the email address legitimate for the person seeking work?
  • Why would the Chief Operating Officer of a large corporation be sending you a request for work from a free account like gmail?

  • Is the email asking you to be involved in transferring a significant amount of money?

  • Are you being asked to finalize an agreement that is already completed?
  • Why are you even needed? If the work is completed, why do they need an attorney to just process the payment?

  • Is the purported client asking you to wire funds but sending you the funds via a draft?
  • Do the wire instructions actually match the institution?
  • Does the account information actually match the account?
  • Many times, only the account number exists but the other information does not match the bank account. The bank is only required to match the routing number and account number, to your detriment.

  • Is your fee to come out of the first payment of the transaction?
  • The fraudster will expedite delivery of the cashier's check so you begin working immediately. You will not actually get paid.

  • Is there a requirement that you must wire the funds out immediately without waiting until the funds are received by the bank?
  • The short timeline that the fraudster is imposing is to take advantage of the Expedited Funds Availability Act.
  • Banks are required to make funds available after a certain period regardless of whether the cashier's check is fully negotiated and funds actually transferred to your account. When you wire those available funds that are not actually received from the payor's bank, you become the guarantor of the transaction.

  • Is the email request too good to be true?
  • The promise of a significant fee for essentially laundering the check is a tempting lure.
  • Recent check fraud claims have added a layer of legal services, such as drafting the agreement of an already completed settlement or sale. Do not let the potential fee blind you to the fraud.
Even if you miss all of these red flags, you can still protect yourself by not transferring, wiring or withdrawing ANY funds until your bank actually receives the funds from the payor’s financial institution.

REMEMBER : Received funds is not the same as made available by the bank pursuant to the Expedited Funds Availability Act. We recommend using a letter to confirm full receipt of the funds with your bank to protect yourself. Click here for a sample letter.
Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to discuss a potential situation!

Gretchen Koehler Mote, Esq.
Director of Loss Prevention
Ohio Bar Liability Insurance Company
Direct Phone Line: 614.572.0620
Need more information or a quote? Call 800-227-4111, we would love to talk to you.
Ohio Bar Liability Insurance Company
P.O. Box 2708, Columbus, OH 43216-2708 
Phone: (800) 227-4111 or (614) 488-7924
Fax: (614) 488-7936