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Scammers target labor lawyers Beware of the old cashier's check ruse.

Labor and employment lawyers, beware.

Cyber criminals are posing as wrongly terminated employees to advance a highly orchestrated check-cashing scheme.

Dana Gallup, managing partner of Gallup Auerbach of Hollywood, was targeted July 28 with an online inquiry from a purported new client named "Matthew Kicinski."

The email writer claimed he needed help collecting a $169,945 severance from a South Florida power equipment company. The scammer claimed he was fired after he reported a female executive's unwanted sexual advances.

"... till date, the terms of the agreement hasn't been met," the writer claimed.

The scammer forwarded an undated "offer letter," the alleged severance agreement, and what he claimed were heated email exchanges with a company official.

The typos and poor grammar were suspicious enough. But when "Kicinski" claimed to be expecting a six-figure payout, Gallup knew he was being played.

"He said he was offered a $100,000-plus severance package on the spot, which nobody does, unless you are an executive," Gallup said. "I'm a labor and employment lawyer. Maybe the med-mal (medical malpractice,) and PI (personal injury) guys see this kind of money all the time, but not us."

Gallup knew from experience what would come next. A pretty good facsimile of a company check. Sometime between the time Gallup deposited it, and before it cleared, the client would ask Gallup to wire cash.

Gallup reported the incident to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center. After filling out a form, Gallup received an acknowledgment and a case number.

For Gallup, it was deja vu all over again.

A few weeks before the latest incident, Gallup's partner, Jacob Auerbach, was also targeted. The attempt was slightly more sophisticated, Gallup said.

The scammer asked Auerbach to help him collect a severance from a local corporation that Auerbach knew well. After the scammer signed a fee agreement, Auerbach received an email, purportedly from the company's human resource officer, promising to forward a check. Auerbach recognized the HR officer's name.

But when Auerbach noticed that the HR officer's email address was slightly different than the official version, he consulted Gallup.

"So Jacob writes to me, and he says, what do you think of this? Is it for real? And I said, 'No, you're being scammed.'"

Gallup's scam radar should be well developed after being targeted several years ago.

Someone claiming to be from England wanted Gallup's help collecting $100,000 from a South Florida company that the client said was refusing to pay for a shipment of goods.

"I said I could help you with that, and they turned around and signed the retainer agreement," Gallup said. "Then they sent an email that said, 'great news, as soon as they heard that we retained you, they agreed to pay"

By the time an authentic-looking $100,000 check arrived, Gallup knew it wasn't real.

"I read a Bar News story about a guy in Tampa who was a victim of the same scam," Gallup said. "After the check was sent to me, there was a series of emails by the scammer saying, 'did you receive the check? I really need the wire transfer immediately!'"

Gallop says he still has the check. Now, Gallup suspects another cyber-crime wave is cresting.

He mentioned the latest attempt to a fellow labor and employment lawyer before a recent hearing, and the other lawyer confirmed that he had been targeted as well.

A board member and former president of the Florida Chapter of NELA (National Employment Lawyers Association), Gallup posted a warning on the association's website.

"So I just threw it out on the listserv," Gallup said. "And seven or eight lawyers on the listserv wrote back and said, 'Yeah, I got the same email.'"

Gallup's advice for fellow attorneys? "If it sounds too good to be true, believe me, it is," he said.
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Author:Ash, Jim
Publication:Florida Bar News
Date:Sep 1, 2018
Words:634
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