Showing posts with label scams. Show all posts
Showing posts with label scams. Show all posts

Monday, May 13, 2013

Vultures Still Circling After the Boston Marathon Bombing

Now that the dust has just begun to settle on the horrific Boston Marathon terrorist attack of April 15, 2013, and the perpetrators are either buried or in custody, there is another sad aftermath:  consequences from those cashing in on the victims' suffering by exploiting Intellectual Property through fraud and abuse.

For example, hundreds of fake Boston Marathon-related scams popped up purporting to help the victims, requiring authorities, including the IRS, to issue stern warnings.

Time magazine notes that hundreds of Boston Marathon-themed domain names were quickly registered and put up for auction within hours of the tragedy's unfolding.

Finally, gruesome and unlicensed photos were stolen from Getty images and the Associated Press, and sold on in unauthorized e-books.  After an outcry, Amazon pulled the e-books.

The predictably sad repeat of these transparently opportunistic activities after recent tragedies has led some to consider whether anti-fraud laws should be enhanced to include stiffer penalties for fraudulent activities after a mass casualty occurs.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

IP Law Firm Targets Trademark Agency "Scammer"

It has become commonplace for small business owners to receive unsolicited notices in the postal mail that very closely resemble official, federal U.S. Government trademark renewal forms.

Without scrutinizing the official-looking legal document carefully, the business owner may send it back with a check usually for a nominal sum such as $400, to cover the cost of his trademark renewal.

Only later does he discover that the form was not official correspondence at all, but rather a mass mail solicitation designed to confuse and deceive him into sending a check to a private company.

One New York intellectual property law firm has taken the initiative to target one such alleged mass mail trademark renewal "scammer."

White Plains, New York-based Intellectual Property law firm Leason Ellis LLP recently filed a federal lawsuit on its own behalf against Patent & Trademark Agency LLC and Armens Organesjans, an individual who is reportedly the mastermind behind the alleged mass mail "scam."

Leason Ellis alleges that the Defendants, who claim to operate the "nation's premier trademark registration and renewal service," are actually nothing more than a private company that targets unwary businesses and individuals by sending mass mailings that are designed to mimic U.S. government trademark renewal forms.

To support its allegations, Leason Ellis notes that the official United States Patent and Trademark Office recently included an example of such a mass solicitation sent by the Defendants as an example of one scam to avoid.

Leason Ellis claims to have been damaged by virtue of having its clients duped by the allegedly false advertising sent by the Defendants.  The Complaint alleged a variety of torts, including tortious interference with business relationships.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Internet Scammers Targeting Lawyers

Attorneys in the United States, particularly solo practitioners and lawyers with small firms, are apparently falling prey to sophisticated international Internet scams that can have severe consequences, financial and otherwise, the California Bar Association has noted in an Alert.

To date, these scams have been more prevalent among, although not exclusive to, collection and commercial lawyers, mainly because these practice areas make it easier for those initiating the scams to make them appear legitimate. However, such frauds have affected lawyers working in family law and other practice areas, as well.

The fraudsters perpetrating the scams engage in the following conduct:

1.  The lawyer receives what appears to be a legitimate solicitation e-mail from a prospective client.  The client may be a company or an individual. The e-mail sounds something like this:  "We are a media publishing company in Japan. We have a breach of intellectual property agreement matter in your jurisdiction, we can forward you the agreement and other party information for your review to enable you run a conflict check."  The client will be willing to forward seemingly legitimate incorporation documents.

2.  The lawyer and client discuss a fee agreement by e-mail.  Most commonly, the client will offer that the attorney may keep a certain sum in exchange for collecting on an unpaid debt.  The lawyer signs the agreement, creating an ostensible attorney-client relationship.

3.  The lawyer then receives a "congratulatory" e-mail from the new client announcing that they have received a settlement offer from the debtor, and that all the lawyer needs to do is deposit the settlement check and forward the proceeds of settlement, minus the lawyer's fees and expenses.

4.  The lawyer quickly receives in the mail what appears to be a valid paper check from a reputable bank, which is deposited into the lawyer's trust account.

5.  The client then demands an immediate wire distribution of the settlement proceeds (nearly always to a foreign bank).

6.  The lawyer then wires the proceeds to the client from the trust account, as requested.

7. By that point, the lawyer's bank has discovered that the paper check is fraudulent and it is returned unpaid.  By this time, the scammer is long gone, and the lawyer's trust account is overdrawn by the amount of the fraudulent check.

This chain of events leaves the victimized lawyer in a vulnerable position.  The lawyer cannot easily press criminal charges, because of possible fear of violating client confidences.  Second, the identity of the fraudster isn't even clear.

Further, the lawyer cannot easily recoup his losses.  Malpractice insurers may not qualify the lost sum as "damages" from professional negligence.

The California Bar Association notes that, in choosing clients and accepting to represent them, it is better to err on the side of caution.  Hitting the "delete" button may be the best course of action when receiving one of these "too good to be true" new client offers.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fake "ObamaCare" Insurance Cards

According to ScamBook Weekly (video below), counterfeiters are attempting to capitalize on the ongoing consumer confusion about the practical impact of the US Affordable Health Care Act (dubbed "ObamaCare") which was recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The fraudsters are apparently contacting individuals by telephone and e-mail and pretending to be government workers asking for social security numbers and credit card information.

They are then offering to sell counterfeit "ObamaCare insurance cards," despite the fact that no such insurance plan exists or is contemplated by the health care law.  

The New York Times reports that such scams have already hit individuals in many states.  There is likely to be a continuing increase in these scams as we near 2014, when the individual mandate kicks into effect.

Scambook points out that the scammers have no regard for politics, they are just looking for an easy score.