Security Alert for Attorneys

Hudson Valley Bank would like to bring your attention to a serious fraud once again being perpetrated on attorneys in the New York metropolitan area, as well as nationally. Known as an “advance fee fraud,” it has been used for years but has some new aspects in the internet era. Here are some of the current patterns of this particular fraud. 

  • The attorney receives an e-mail from someone they do not know.
  • A number of “fraudsters” have originated in Asian countries but could come from any location, foreign or domestic.
  • They claim they are looking for the attorney to provide legal assistance.
  • This assistance can range from attempting to collect a debt to providing assistance with overseas purchases or litigation.
  • Once the attorney enters into a business arrangement, the fraudster will quickly send the attorney an “official” bank check, which is drawn on either a US or a foreign bank account.
  • The check is not legitimate and is eventually returned to the bank as a fraudulent item.
  • Once the attorney receives the check, the fraudster will advise the attorney to deposit the check into the attorney’s bank account.
  • Because the deposit is an apparent “official” bank check, they advise the attorney to wire the funds out the next business day.
  • This wire can be for part of or the full amount of the check less the attorney’s fee.
  • The attorney’s fee is generally sizeable, relative to the work done and is often 10% to 15% of the check amount. Remember the old adage – “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
  • These wires are generally sent to foreign countries, but not always.
  • All correspondence is generally conducted by e-mail and on occasion by telephone, but there are rarely face to face meetings.
  • Often the sender suggests that due to a family or business emergency, they are unreachable, i.e. attending a family funeral out of town, to prompt the targeted attorney to react without normal due diligence.    
  • The fraudster may even claim they have been referred by another attorney to add credibility. Under these circumstances, it would be prudent to check with the alleged referral source.

We urge you to take every precaution before entering into this type of business arrangement.  If the fraud is not discovered in time and the wire is sent, it cannot be recovered. You will incur a loss if the funds cannot be retrieved.

Please contact your Branch Manager or Relationship Manager if you have any questions regarding this matter.