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Fun with Nigerian Scammers

April 5, 2013

… by which I am referring to the Nigerian Scam, not folks from Nigeria, many of whom I would imagine are fine, upstanding folks.

For at least a decade the Nigerian Scam has been working through the ranks of attorneydom, at times to such effect that the California Bar Journal posted a warning about it way back, and here’s one from about 3 years ago regarding faux divorce settlements.  Yes, attorneys keep falling for it.

It invariably involves advance payment to the firm, with a check that bounces after the “overpayment” part of the check has been refunded to the scammer.  Neat, huh?  Probably as ancient a scam as scams get … or at least as old as the existence of checks.   Oh, and they tend to use real companies and at times real CEO names, making it seem — perhaps — legit.

So how do you tell if you’re being scammed?  Duh!  Sounds too good to be true.   Also, if you happen to know a thing or two about the internet, just looking at the email header information, or just the email addres, can be a pretty good tipoff.    So sometimes a bit of fun with these folks is in order.  Case in point (names edited to some degree).

xxx@gmail.com

I need a breach of contract lawyer to assist me with a legal matter.

Thank you.

Well, that’s a red flag already, and I do not mean the email address; I refer to the brevity.

Dear Andrew:

Thank you for contacting this office.  I may or may not be able to assist you, depending on the facts.   Please provide some details, such as what the matter is about, where, etc.   Thanks.

Sincerely,

T.C. Johnston, LL.M.
I n t e r n e t   L a w

You know, the stuff that should have been in the initial query.  What lawyer could not handle a “breach of contract?”

xxxx@yahoo.fr

Hello T.C,

Thanks for your response, we provided a business associate of ours Acme Engineering Group an unsecured business loan in the amount of $7,950,000.00 (USD) The loan was needed to boost investment in one of their companies. The loan was for 12 months with interest rate of 4%. AEG have defaulted on the last instalment of the loan in the amount of $676,941.74 (USD) which was supposed to be paid on 1/12/2011. Kindly let me know if this is a matter you could consider handling on our behalf, we will provide you with all the necessary information and answer any other questions you might have.

Regards,

Andrew Andrewsson

Chief Executive officer
ImportantCo AG

OK, so we have a new email address, a font-obvious cut and paste, and some real companies.  Sweet.

Dear Andrew:

Please feel free to forward for my review (in pdf format) the loan agreement and related documents, all statements and invoices related to the matter, and all correspondence detailing your company’s attempts to collect on the debt.  I will then be in a better position to advise on the matter.

Additionally, I am curious why the CEO of the largest construction company in [Northern Europe] would use an insecure French Yahoo! account to directly contact a solo San Diego Internet lawyer about instituting contract litigation against a company in the Los Angeles area, when there are literally thousands of local contract attorneys who could handle the matter more efficiently.  I would have assumed your company already had legal contacts in L.A., and that your house counsel would handle such queries.   I am also curious as to the circumstances that resulted in ImportantCo agreeing to an $8M unsecured loan in the first place, and why it waited for over two years after such a substantial default before considering legal action to collect.

Please advise.

And here endeth the query by “Andrew.”  Dude never got back!  Do you think it was the request for information that would be needed to assess the matter, or the snark?

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