Action Line: Oklahoma lawyers targeted by new version of 'Nigerian scam'
BY PHIL MULKINS World Action Line Editor
Thursday, July 26, 2012
7/26/12 at 3:22 AM
A morped version of "4-1-9 fraud" (the "Nigerian scam") is targeting Oklahoma attorneys, claiming referral from the Oklahoma Bar Association, sending bogus $86,000 cashier's checks and has reportedly scammed "quite a few lawyers," said Tulsa attorney Mac D. Finlayson.
The scam letter (being mailed out of Canada) begins, "Dear Counsel, I was referred to you by the Oklahoma State's Bar Referral Services. We require a good Business Litigation Attorney for our matter, please advice (sic). We await your response." - Geoffrey Hugh O'Donnell, Director, Rollco Pty Limited, Revesby, Australia."
"Basically, this began with an email inquiry from somebody, ostensibly in Canada, saying, 'I have this outstanding note that is due and the guy's name is such-and-such and he lives in Tulsa (name and address verified online) and we want to engage you to collect it,' " Finlayson said. "I said, 'Fine but we do not transfer funds until our retainer fund is collected in our account. If it's paid by cashier's check the amount has to be collected through banking channels. Wire transfers are preferred.' "
The U.S. Secret Service criminal investigations website warns of wire transfer fraud tulsaworld.com/USSS419Fraud, initially called "advance fee fraud" or "4-1-9 fraud" (after the section of Nigerian penal code addressing such schemes).
"They are often very creative and innovative, and a large number of victims are enticed into believing they have been singled out from the masses to share in multimillion-dollar windfall profits for no apparent reason," the Secret Service says.
The morphed "Nigerian scam" - or at least a version of it - is now using the OBA as bait to lend legitimacy to the engagement request.
"This is the first one I have seen (though I see many other varieties) evoking OBA," Finlayson said. "Eventually, the scam morphs into the receipt of a cashier's check they expect you to deposit to your trust account, then immediately pay out to the client. Your money is gone, and about 10 days later your bank advises the check is counterfeit and you owe the amount you wired.
"I have a counterfeit $86,000 cashier's check that is now with the U.S. Secret Service - a very good counterfeit designed to fool most people - and it was quickly determined the original item having that check number was issued for $105 - not $86,000."
Even though many attorneys might have fallen for this scam, they apparently are keeping it to themselves, said Adrian Andrews, special agent in charge of the Oklahoma District Office of the U.S. Secret Service in Oklahoma City.
"This is the first report on this OBA attorney thing I've heard," Andrews said.
The agency's 2002 "419 fraud" fact sheet says, "The Financial Crimes Division of the Secret Service receives 100 telephone calls from victims or potential victims and 300 to 500 pieces of related correspondence per day" on this international scam.
But Andrews said, "They don't target shoot - they do shotgun shooting. They try to blast these things out to as many people as they can, hoping to get someone to bite. They know it's a numbers game and send out hundreds of things hoping two will bite.
"You'd think they would be smarter than to go after licensed, practicing attorneys. Common citizens report this stuff to us when they fall for the lottery winnings scam, but as far as I know we've not heard from any attorneys. The Internet made these easier to send out, but hearing about victims is not as common as it used to be. This is not a common problem we are seeing as an agency and certainly not in Oklahoma."
Original Print Headline: 'Nigerian scam' targeting lawyers
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