Yes, if you are about the same age as me, you can sing that title to The Bangles tune of “Just another Manic Monday …”
So, this is a weirder follow up post as it follows up on something I posted in October 2021 but involves substantive content that came into existence in July 2021 and, thus, I really should have known about and mentioned in my October 2021 post. Does that feel like the sort of confusing timeline of events you might encounter if you are watching Archive 81 on Netflix and paying full attention or the sort of confusing timeline you could encounter if you are watching Dopesick on Hulu and a bit distracted so as not to see the numbers flash on the screen? If so, fair.
So here is the elaboration. Back in October 2021, I shared the video of my FRED talk from the APRL Annual Meeting discussing a variation of a kind of scam about which lawyers really need to be aware. What I didn’t know when I gave that talk is that The North Carolina State Bar had put out a comprehensive ethics opinion on the same topic in July 2021. That opinion, 2021-2, can be viewed in full here.
It is a particularly well-done and well thought out analysis of a number of varieties of the ways in which versions of this trust account scam can happen. But it is also noteworthy because it has a very good list of some “alerts” that exist out there that lawyers can digest and bring themselves up to speed. This excerpt from that opinion might be among the best takeaways from it:
State and federal agencies have alerted the public to the existence and persistence of these counterfeit check scams for some time. See, e.g., Counterfeit Check Scams, North Carolina Department of Justice, https://ncdoj.gov/protecting-consumers/sweepstakes-and-prizes/counterfeit-check-scams/; How to Spot, Avoid and Report Fake Check Scams, Federal Trade Commission, https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-spot-avoid-and-report-fake-check-scams. Similarly, state and national bar associations, lawyer regulatory bodies, and malpractice carriers have reported on and alerted lawyers to the reality that such scams often target members of the legal profession. See, e.g., Six Indicted in $32M Internet Collection Scam That Snagged 80 Lawyers, ABA Journal (Nov. 22, 2010), https://www.abajournal.com/news/article/six_indicted_in_32m_internet_collection_scam_that_snagged_80_lawyers/; Counterfeit Check Scams Continue to Target Law Firms, California Bar Journal (January 2012), https://www.calbarjournal.com/January2012/TopHeadlines/TH6.aspx; New York City Bar Formal Ethics Opinion 2015-3, Lawyers Who Fall Victim to Internet Scams (April 22, 2015), https://www.nycbar.org/member-and-career-services/committees/reports-listing/reports/detail/formal-opinion-2015-3-lawyers-who-fall-victim-to-internet-scams; Laura Loyek, Counterfeit Check Scams are Still Snaring Lawyers, Lawyers Mutual North Carolina (March 22, 2019), https://www.lawyersmutualnc.com/risk-management-resources/articles/counterfeit-check-scams-are-still-snaring-lawyers; Joanna Herzik, Scams Continue to Target Texas Attorneys, Texas Bar Blog (July 14, 2020), https://blog.texasbar.com/2020/07/articles/law-firms-and-legal-departments/scams-continue-to-target-texas-attorneys/; E-Mail Scams and Lawyer Trust Accounts, Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, https://www.iardc.org/information/alert.html. The North Carolina State Bar has also published a number of warnings to the legal profession in North Carolina about these scams. See, e.g., New Variation of Fake Check Scam Targets Law Practices, North Carolina State Bar (December 6, 2010), /news-publications/news-notices/2010/12/fake-check-scam/; Bruno Demoli, Bruno’s Top Tips: Protect Yourself from Financial Con-Artists, North Carolina State Bar Journal (Fall 2011 pp. 34 & 37); Alert: Beware of Scams that Target NC Law Practices, North Carolina State Bar (January 8, 2016), /news-publications/news-notices/2016/01/scams-targeting-nc-law-practices/. These publications describe the scenarios associated with the scams and identify the relevant warning signs to assist lawyers in detecting and avoiding such scams.
So, if you have time, you should give it a read. And, if you don’t understand either of the television show references I made above, and you have even more time on your hands and subscriptions to those platforms, go watch those shows as they are both very, very good.