Retainer overpayment and refund ruse

The ruse

You may see this in conjunction with the phony matrimonial debt collection or some other ruse if you press for a retainer from the new client.  

Here is the description of the scam as first reported:

We have seen the overpayment and electronic transfer refund scam before (see Practice Watch, Benchers' Bulletin, Fall 2009); however, recently this has resurfaced in the retainer context. A new client contacts you by email and provides you with a retainer in excess of the amount required. You deposit her phony cheque or bank draft. She presses you to issue her a refund of the excess amount by wire transfer before you learn that the cheque or bank draft is no good. You may see this in conjunction with the phony matrimonial debt collection scam if you press for a retainer from the new client.

Take precautions so that you do not pay out on the basis of depositing a phony instrument in your trust account.

Retainer overpayment and refund scam (Practice Watch, Benchers’ Bulletin, 2010 No. 1 Spring)

Twists and developments 

Since first reported, we have seen new twists to the different ruses as fraudsters try to trick lawyers. Because the details of any particular ruse or scam may change and any variation in one may be used in another, lawyers will want to be familiar with all of these twists and developments.


For a complete list of publications relating to the different ruses, see Bad cheque scam publications.

Learn more about how to protect yourself from the bad cheque scam.



The ruses

The fraudsters generally use a particular ruse to trick lawyers. Here are the details of the different ruses reported by the Law Society:

Phony debt collection ruse (includes collecting on outstanding loans, commercial debts and settlement agreements)

Phony debt collection in the matrimonial context ruse

Phony business loan ruse

Phony real estate conveyance or fake mortgage ruse

Retainer overpayment and refund ruse