Business Article

California Collection Attorney
Greenbaum Law Group, LLP 

Getting an inquiry from a potential new collection client can get you fired up.  But many unsolicited internet inquiries are scams.  Recognizing the telltale signs of a scam can save you time and grief.

The basic plot is to attempt to get the collector to deposit a fraudulent or forged check into the collectors’ account.  Relying on the collector to be anxious to take a fee on that recovery, the scammers know that urgency will likely be on their side.  Once deposited, the scammer asks that the collection fee be deducted and the client balance be wired to the crooks account.  Most likely their account is offshore.  By the time the collector discovers the check is a fraud, the other money in their account (theirs or other clients) has been irrevocably lost.  Collectors with trust accounts are prime targets.

There are a few easy clues.  Most all are from foreign companies or individuals.  If they are in the United States , they should provide a legitimate company telephone number.  Out of country inquires rely on your reluctance to make international calls or their failure to give you a legitimate phone number.

 First, the email from the purported creditor often originate from a public domain like gmail, yahoo or aol.  Anytime an email shows a business name and a business website but the email address is from a generic account, watch out.  Sometimes the crooks will even say that their business server is down.  That’s not likely and is an almost sure sign of a scam.

Certain catchy phrases seem to almost always recur.  Be careful when the message uses “in your jurisdiction”  or “modalities” or “are you accepting new cases” or you were found from your on-line profile or the trade association.   Often they purport to contact you for a non specific type of service such as  enforcement/collection”,  “ possible litigation”  or a  divorce settlement.  Why would someone who has a domestic divorce who now lives in a foreign country not contact their original attorney?  

Frequently the grammar, spelling and punctuation are faulty.  An anxious collector may attribute those to foreign nationals.  The names often don’t make much sense.  Tiffany Ningbodo,  James Jackson Woo or other mixed ethnic names. 

There is usually some claim of urgency.  “We are urgently in need of…”  or  “Your prompt response is ….”.  The scammer tests your interest by asking you to respond that you are available.  Once there is a response, you very likely get some detail and request for your terms.  It generally doesn’t matter how you respond because the scammer quickly notifies you that they have advised a debtor that you have been consulted, that the purported debtor was forced to settle and that you should expect a check.

A check, often a cashiers check for a large amount and appearing very legitimate, appears a few days later.  It frequently comes by overnight courier, like FedEx.  The collector will typically contact the prospective client with notice of receipt of the check.  This is met with a request that you bank the check, deduct your fee and wire the balance to a foreign account.

Don’t deposit the check.  Instead call, fax or email the bank or the purported debtor with a copy of the check and try to confirm the check is legitimate.  It won’t be!  But it could take 2-3 weeks to find out the check is forged or fictitious.  Just enough time for you to wire money that isn’t there.

So when that tempting out of country, unsolicited email arrives.  Be cautious.  Even if you don’t lose money, don’t lose time.


Martin B. Greenbaum is a California Collection Attorney and the senior attorney with the Collection Law Firm of Greenbaum Law Group LLP.  See his website at


Legal Disclaimer: This article contains the opinions of the author and does not constitute legal advice or the rendition of legal services.  You should consult your own attorney for specific questions related to your specific legal issues.  No attorney-client relationship has been created by the author writing and publishing this article nor by your reading and taking, or not taking any action based on the content hereof.


© Martin B. Greenbaum 2013

About Martin B. Greenbaum

MARTIN B. GREENBAUM is the senior attorney with the law firm of Greenbaum Law Group, LLP and limits his practice to collection and loss recovery.  Mr. Greenbaum is rated "AV" by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, the highest rating given by the most prestigious attorney rating directory in the United States. 

He attended UCLA for both his undergraduate and law degrees. He acquired intensive trial experience while serving as Deputy District Attorney with the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office for almost five years. Since then, he has been engaged in collection, enforcement of judgments, and debt recovery.  Greenbaum Law Group LLP has its’ principal office in Newport Beach, California with satellite locations in San Diego, Beverly Hills and San Francisco                       




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