Email scam checklist for lawyers

Based on information reported by members of the legal profession and its own investigations, the New Zealand Law Society has produced a short checklist of questions which lawyers should ask when they receive an emailed request for legal services from a hitherto-unknown sender:

  • Where does the email originate from? Is it from a common website account (Google, Yahoo, Hotmail) or from an unknown foreign account?
  • How did the sender get your name? Have you been referred by some undisclosed contact or are your details supposedly in some international directory (which you have not subscribed to)?
  • How does the language (English) read? Is it poor or amateurish?
  • Is the sender asking you to act on his/her behalf on an “easy” settlement?
  • Is the settlement for a substantial amount of money, with the only action required from you being collection from another party?
  • Even though the sender doesn’t know you, do they refer to your trustworthiness, honesty, integrity or reliability as a reason for making the contact?
  • Are terms such as “banking co-ordinates”, “prime bank instrument”, “world’s leading banks” used? If so, these terms have been used by scammers in the past and you should be wary.
  • Do one or both parties reside overseas? If one party says they reside in New Zealand, are they located overseas for most of the communications?
  • Does it seem too good to be true?