Nigerian fraud scheme targets law firms, lawyers

Victims should call the FBI in Canton at (330) 456-6200.

The FBI has issued a warning about a Nigerian fraud scheme that targets law firms and attorneys, especially those engaged in collection work.

The scheme has been ongoing since the beginning of the year. The recipient receives an unsolicited pitch, via e-mail or a letter originating in Canada. The sender represents himself to be part of the management of an Asian company. He may even provide a Web site for the bogus company. The sender requests that the attorney or the law firm represent the company in North America.

The FBI has identified numerous victims nationwide, and losses total millions of dollars. Anyone who has been victimized should contact the Canton FBI at (330) 456-6200. An Internet Crime Complaint Web site is at

FBI Special Agent Scott T. Wilson said he wasn’t aware of any law firms or attorneys in The Vindicator coverage area taken in by the scheme.

An early version of the scheme asks the victim to act as recipient for money owed the Asian company from North American customers. The victim exchanges a series of e-mails wherein a retainer agreements is signed and electronic copies of the signed agreement are provided via e-mail.

No face-to-face contact is made with the company’s representative although the victim may receive a phone call from a Hong Kong phone number. The victim will be advised via e-mail that a customer is remitting payment to the victim and that he should contact the Asian company by e-mail upon receipt of the money. The money usually arrives in an overnight package with a return address in Canada, typically a city in the Toronto area. The package will contain a check, drawn on a well-known New York bank, and appear to be genuine.

On the same day the package arrives, the Asian company will e-mail instructions to wire the money to one or more Asian banks. Losses are incurred when the victim wires the money before he can be notified by his bank that the deposited check is counterfeit.

A later version of the scheme varies slightly in that the victim is asked to represent the Asian company in collecting debts owed by North American customers. Before the victim ever begins collection efforts, the Asian company advises the victim that a delinquent customer has agreed to remit payment. An overnight package arrives containing a counterfeit check which is then deposited in the victim’s trust account and wired to an Asian bank.