A New Hampshire lawyer is out $240,000 after falling prey to an international Internet scam, prosecutors said.
The attorney general's office declined to identify the lawyer but said he is one of two lawyers in the state who were targeted in recent weeks by scam artists who used Internet messages, fake companies and counterfeit checks to "retain" them.
The checks were said to be settlement money or retainer fees, and the lawyers were instructed to wire money to a different party in the case.
Prosecutors say one lawyer investigated further and learned the check was counterfeit and that the scam artists had used fraudulent stationary to pretend to be the opposing counsel who sent the check. He did not wire the money as instructed, but instead alerted the attorney general's Office and state banking officials.
The second lawyer deposited the check and wired half the amount — $240,000 — to a so-called client of the company that retained him, prosecutors said. He soon learned the check was bogus and his account was drained of cash. Because the lawyer was the one who deposited the check in his account, he suffers the loss.
Assistant Attorney General Karen Gorham, who investigated the cases, said no arrests are anticipated.
"It's very, very difficult to find people in scams like this," she said. She said it's the first scam she's seen that specifically targets lawyers.
"It's a very familiar scam in general, and we receive complaints regularly about this type of scam," Gorham said. "I felt it was time to warn the public and lawyers."
Gorham advises potential victims to contact her office or the banking department before wiring money to strangers or depositing checks that arrive out of nowhere.
"If it seems too good to be true, it probably is," she said.
New Hampshire Bar Association spokesman Dan Wise said he has posted links to the attorney general's news release and to other organizations that have warned of similar scams.
"We've had attorneys sending us messages about it, dating back about six months," Wise said. "Scammers do research to grab some lawyer's name so it looks like it's on the up-and-up."
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