New Jersey attorneys should be alert to scams involving attorney trust accounts.
Typical scams aimed at law offices include:
- messages alleging that the recipient's IOLTA account has insufficient funds to pay an outstanding check;
- an emailed request, often from overseas, for help in collecting a divorce settlement
from an ex-spouse;
- unsolicited email requests, often from overseas, for legal help collecting money or judgments, sometimes apparently coming from actual professionals/companies;
- a real estate transaction for an overseas client not referred to you by a reliable source; or
- impersonation of law firms by scam artists who issue bogus checks.
There are no special protections afforded to an IOLTA account. If you deposit a fraudulent check and disburse the funds before sufficient time has passed to clear the check and allow for any returns, you are responsible for the ensuing overdraft. Many of the scams mentioned above involve amounts from $200,000 to $500,000.
Cases involving bank fraud are investigated by the Secret Service. If you are targeted, contact an office in your area. Internet fraud should be reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.