Tuesday, April 10, 2012

If you ever wondered who gets taken in by email scammers, here is one answer.

Most days I take a look at my spam filter to make sure that no legitimate emails get caught by the filter.  The spam filter is a wonderful thing.  For the most part it effectively eliminates a type of email scam that is targeted to lawyers.

The way the scam works is that you get an email from a woman (it is almost always a woman) saying that she has obtained a settlement or judgment of several hundred thousands dollars and needed a local attorney to help her collect.  Usually there is something about the email that is a little off.  For example, the email address sending the email is different than the email address one is told to use to email the potential client.  

If one agrees to help with the collection matter, one is given the contact information of the judgment debtor.  In reality the judgment debtor is in on the scam.  The judgment debtor/co-conspirator readily agrees to pay the judgment and gives the lawyer a check made to the lawyer in that amount. The check, of course, is no good.  The hope is that the lawyer will pay the client the judgment amount from the lawyer's account before learning that the check the lawyer received was no good.

I sometimes wonder if any lawyers actually believe this scam.  The Minneapolis Star Tribune has a story today that shows some lawyers do fall for the scam.  The story is here.  The Minnesota law firm Milavetz, Gallop & Milavetz has sued Wells Fargo claiming that Wells Fargo is responsible for the fact that the firm lost nearly $400,000 in one of these scams.  The complaint in that lawsuit is here

I do not have an opinion on the merits of the complaint.  However, a couple things about the complaint seemed noteworthy.  First, paragraph 55 of the complaint identifies an associate attorney, "CS", as the attorney who read the scam email and "accepted the case for [the firm] and was the responsible attorney."  CS is described as an "associate attorney" at the firm.  The only attorney with the initials CS on the firm's website is Chad Schulze, a lawyer with the firm since 2002.  The firm is representing itself in the lawsuit.

The other thing that I noticed is that the firm claims a copyright on the complaint.  Mr. Torvik wrote about copyrighting briefs here.  The practice apparently extends to complaints as well.  I wonder what one charges as a royalty rate on a complaint.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting.

    I find the use of initials for all individuals mentioned in the complaint to be a bit odd. I've seen complaints in securities cases that cite confidential sources, but never a blanket decision to keep the identity of all witnesses obscured. (Though, as you point out, it doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure some of this out.) I guess it's pretty clear that they are just trying to keep their names out of google searches.

    I wonder if the copyright claim is an effort to discourage people from embedding it in blog posts and from posting the complaint to sites such as scribd, either of which would also likely allow it to start showing up on google searches.


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