Scam Alert: LSBA Warns Members a Recent Scam Attempt

The LSBA is continuing its mission to alert members about scams targeting lawyers and law firms. Recently, an LSBA member recounted the following incident in hopes of preventing similar situations.

The LSBA member was contacted through their firm website portal last week by “Fernando Martin,” who sought representation regarding a severance package that was owed by his former employer, “Company A.” Martin provided a signed contract with Company A in which they purportedly agreed to pay him $110,000 in connection with his termination. The attorney sent Martin a retainer letter and Engagement Agreement Memorandum which he signed and emailed back. Immediately following, the attorney received an email from “Eric Severson,” purportedly Chief of Human Resources with Company A, agreeing to the payment. He also advised that Martin authorized the payment to go to the attorney and requested banking information from the firm. This request made the attorney suspicious and communication was eventually cut off. It should be noted that Company A is a legitimate company; however, after a quick Google search it was revealed that the domain from which Severson's email was sent was fraudulent.

Here are tips to protect yourself from falling victim to scams:

Don’t trust the display name. Check the email address in the “From” header — if it looks suspicious, it may not be legitimate. Even if an email has convincing branding and language, it does not mean that it is authentic.

Beware of urgent or threatening language. Invoking a sense of urgency or fear is a common spoofing tactic. If you receive a message asking for urgent financial assistance, you should pause and proceed with caution.

Call to confirm. If in doubt about an email that appears to be from a legitimate person, call or text the person yourself instead of replying to the message. Do this even if the message says the sender cannot be reached by phone for some reason.

Warn others. If you find the email is a hoax and comes from someone you know personally, immediately contact the original sender to let him or her know. Suggest that the sender send an email to this effect.

Do not respond. If you receive phishing email, do not respond. Responding to emails like this confirms your email account as an active one and can result in you getting more spam.

Do not accept facts as face value without more research and due diligence as to the people and matters involved.

Beware of clients you have never personally met or clients who need immediate transfer of funds. Don’t be tempted by receipt of an overpayment of an advance deposit or a fee that appears “too good to be true.”

The LSBA, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel and law enforcement agencies encourage LSBA members to exercise caution and perform due diligence before accepting new cases and performing financial transactions involving the lawyer’s trust account.

LSBA News Resources

Louisiana Bar Journal Bar Briefs
Louisiana State Bar Association
601 St. Charles Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70130
(800) 421-LSBA(5722) / (504) 566-1600