Scammers are increasingly targeting lawyers by sending forged emails to law firms, their clients and/ or to financial institutions, instructing that funds be wired to accounts controlled by the scammers. The scam typically involves a compromised email account (which can be the lawyer’s, the client’s or even the bank’s) which scammers are monitoring to uncover pending transactions requiring an outlay of funds – such as a real estate purchase, a loan, or the settlement of a lawsuit.
At the appropriate time when the parties are expecting a request for funds, the hackers (who often know exactly how much money is being transferred) will send wire instructions to the party holding the funds requiring that the funds be sent to the hackers’ account. The funds are immediately swept from the account, and the hackers disappear. The emails usually originate from an address that appears to be from a legitimate sender, but uses a similar, but slightly altered domain name.
Sometimes the scammer will request a change to previous wire transfer instructions after a request has already been made (such as requiring a change in account numbers), or suddenly require that funds be transferred by wire when the original agreement was to pay by check.