Warning on international scams targeting Law Practices

Warning on international scams targeting Law Practices

Please be aware of international scams  targeting local legal practitioners.

In the most recent instance a local firm has been approached to represent a Chinese based company in respect of the sale of a dredger valued at US$2,900,000. The request was made via the law practice’s website.

An internet search of the seller indicates an apparently legitimate Chinese based company established in 1990.  A similar search for the buyer will indicate a legitimate Australian based company with National offices. As part of the scam websites for the companies concerned also appear to be established. A basic internet search does not raise any concerns as registered offices are correctly stated or appear to be correct.

After agreeing to act the legal practice is often provided with a retainer agreement and is then provided with a forged bank cheque to be deposited to the trust account. Soon after the cheque is received, generally by UPS or some other international courier company, a request is made for partial release of funds, normally by way of bank transfer and often to an international bank.

The warning signs

  • no face to face meeting with the clients
  • no advance payments will be received by the solicitor from the client
  • communications will be via email and the email address may be via free web mail accounts

What to do

  • ask where they found the law practice
  • obtain a signed costs agreement
  • obtain funds to be held in trust
  • contact the other party involved via telephone, from white pages listing not an internet search
  • if a cheque is received do not release any portion of the funds until your bank confirms clearance
  • contact the trust account inspectors general@lpbwa.com at the Legal Practice Board, who may already be aware of the scam
Telephone Number
Law Society of Western Australia Reception
(08) 9324 8600
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(08) 9481 3111
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(08) 9324 8640
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(08) 9324 8692
Professional Standards Scheme
(08) 9324 8653
Old Court House Law Museum
(08) 9324 8688
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(08) 9324 8686
Media Enquiries
(08) 9324 8650