A fraud alert recently posted to the Alberta Lawyers Indemnity Association (a division of the Law Society of Alberta), involved a sophisticated bad cheque scam that could also threaten Nova Scotia lawyers: “Scammer posing as CEO from Denmark targets Alberta law firms” (August 2, 2023).

Multiple firms were contacted by a man claiming to be the Denmark-based CEO for a company called Thorne & Coleridge Petroleum. The fraudster, calling himself “Jens Nielsen,” explains he is seeking representation to recover a large debt from an associate who lives in Alberta. As in this case, these types of scam attempts will use registered company names and/or active lawyer or broker names (pulled from online directories) to give an air of legitimacy. Although the details may reflect a legitimate company, the cheque ultimately sent to the lawyer will be bogus in the hopes that neither the lawyer nor their financial institution will be vigilant and perform the proper verification processes before the trust account is debited.

If you receive an email or telephone call request similar to what is outlined above, you may choose to simply dismiss and delete these communications as a scam attempt, and cease all contact.

Remember that if you decide to proceed in any matter, you must always confirm a prospective client’s identification in accordance with the Client ID Regulations of the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society. Perform all searches as thoroughly as possible, be vigilant and take your time – and beware of any aggressive urgency on behalf of the other parties to complete the transaction. Be cautious with all cheques received, especially if they exceed an agreed upon amount. If you decide to proceed with a transaction, be sure to go to the bank website to verify branch transit number, address and phone number on the cheque. Wait until the bank confirms that the funds are legitimate and are safe to withdraw from the deposit. You may also choose to use the Bank of Canada’s Lynx system, an electronic funds transfer system in which settlement occurs after the clearing of each individual payment, resulting in the transfer of funds in central bank money from one participant to another. Once settled, a payment is final and irrevocable.

For tips to avoid being victimized, and to report or seek advice on dealing with fraud and scam attempts, contact Cynthia Nield at [email protected] or 902 423 1300, x346.