How to Tell if an E-mail is a Scam

Lawyer Falls for Nigerian Lottery Scam

A few months ago, a Hong Kong company e-mailed me, saying they wanted to hire me to collect a judgment against a U.S. company.  I thought, "Scam." Why me?  Really, why me? 

Unfortunately, an Atlanta lawyer fell for the scamHere is how it works:

An overseas company contacts a U.S. lawyer by e-mail and retains that attorney as a settlement agent to collect a debt from a U.S. company. The U.S. company sends a settlement check to the lawyer, who deposits it into his trust account and then wires the settlement amount, minus his fee, to the "client." But the settlement check is counterfeit, and the lawyer loses the money he wired abroad.

I'll look for the e-mail I received.  It was worded skillfully, and might have looked legit to someone who was easily flattered and who doesn't understand that there is no such thing as easy money. 

That said, why didn't the lawyer wait long enough for the checks to clear?  Easy money is never easy. 

I feel bad for the lawyer... sort of.  Then again, a lawyer gets paid not just for legal acumen, but for judgment.  Any monkey can crunch cases.  Knowing how to answer someone who asks, "What should I do?" is a real skill.

Imagine someone walks into your office: "Hey, I got an e-mail from a company I have never heard of offering to pay me money to collect a judgment.  It'll probably figure to be $10,000 for a couple of hours of work."  How would you answer?

UPDATE: Here's a copy of the e-mail:

From: HongKong Yejian Technology <[email protected]>

Subject: Legal Counsel

The purpose of this email is to evidence that we have visited your web page and found your profile very interesting. We would like to enter into a one year Attorney-Client Retainer agreement with you as our accredited Attorney for the collection of debt mainly from our America debtors.

IN GENERAL, you shall have all of the responsibilities, duties, powers and authorities which are consistent with your position as our accredited Attorney solely for debt collection.

It is our opinion that your ability to consolidate payments will eradicate delays due to inter-continental monetary transaction between Asia and America.

More so, we understand that a proper retainer agreement will provide the necessary service and we are most inclined to commence talks with you on this matter as soon as possible.

Your consideration of our request is highly anticipated as we look forward to your prompt response.

For further information, please call +852 - 301 - 59103 during office hours or send a fax anytime to:  +852 -301 -72504 or email: [email protected]

Most Sincerely,
Ms. Ai Wa
Sales Manager,   
Hongkong Yejian Technology Co., Ltd.   
7/F, Sino Centre, 582-592 Nathan Road,
Mongkok KL. Hong Kong.
Tel No: +852 - 301 - 59103.
Fax No: +852 -301 -72504.