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Would-be scammer targets Loudoun law firms

A Loudoun County lawyer is warning of a new variation on the classic counterfeit check scam often tried on law firms.

This scheme involves a live-and-in-person would-be client who claims to be owed a large sum of money for architectural work, according to attorney Daniel D. Smith of Leesburg.

He said he heard that Loudoun four firms were approached, and all avoided loss. Bankers reportedly spotted the checks as counterfeit.

The scammer presents himself as an architect who performed work for a known local businessman, according to Smith. The architect claims the businessman stiffed him for a $244,000 commission for residential work and he wants a lawyer to help him get paid.

“He had a very convincing case for claiming a fee he was stiffed on,” Smith said.

The scammer promises a retainer, but things happen fast. A cashier’s check for the commission arrives at the law firm the next day.

The would-be client tells the lawyer to deduct a “healthy fee” and wire the balance.

“Fortunately, the banks here have been quick to pick up on the bogus check,” Smith said.

The “architect” called back to ask where his money was, and Smith sought to report the attempted scam to the FBI. The feds showed little interest, he said.

“I guess it happens all the time. You just got to see through it,” Smith added.

Juror scam unabated

While lawyers confront counterfeit check schemes, court officials have been on the alert to a wave of jury scammers.

Callers impersonating court officials, U.S. marshals or other law enforcement officers telephone random victims to try to convince them to pay a fine to avoid arrest for failing to appear for jury duty, according to a news release this month from the administrative office of the U.S. courts.

“Scams are continually becoming more elaborate, making it much harder for anyone unfamiliar with the jury summons process to identify a scam,” said Jerome Grate, jury administrator for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The head of the U.S. Marshals Service said the service will never call anyone to arrange payment of fines over the phone for failing to appear for jury duty, for outstanding warrants or any other infraction.

Anyone who believes they may have been victimized should notify a U.S. district court clerk as well as local law enforcement, the release said.