Bad cheque scam: Twists and developments

The details of any particular ruse, including the method of payment, may change as scamsters create a story that seems entirely plausible.

As the Law Society learns about these new twists and developments, we report to the profession. Because a variation in one particular ruse or scam may be used in another, lawyers will want to be familiar with all of them. Here are brief summaries of those publications that provide information about the ruses, twists and developments, listed most recent to oldest. For full details, read the publication and any linked material. And learn more about how to protect yourself from the bad cheque scam.

This page includes some of the different names that fraudsters have used in BC. Real people with the same names may be the victims of a fraudster or of coincidence, but are not suspected of wrongdoing.


Phony debt collection nets scammer $500,000 (Notice to the Profession, August 4, 2016)

  • reports that a lawyer was defrauded of approximately $500,000 on a bad cheque scam. In this phony debt collection, the debt was purportedly created by a loan agreement and promissory note from the borrower “Sean Blackwell.” The name used by the new overseas lender “client” was listed on the bad cheque scam names and documents web page. 

Phony referrals and other scams (Practice Watch (p. 16), Benchers' Bulletin, 2014 No. 1 Spring)

  • reports on one scamster claiming that he was referred to the BC lawyer’s firm by the American Bar Association, and on another pretending to be a Tokyo lawyer seeking representation for his client in BC.

Bad cheque scam attempts using LinkedIn (Practice Watch, Benchers' Bulletin, 2013 No. 4 Winter)

  • reports that a BC lawyer was approached via LinkedIn by someone impersonating a lawyer at a Japanese law firm attempting to refer a phony client regarding a divorce settlement.

Lawyer caught in bad cheque scam (Practice Watch, Benchers' Bulletin, 2013 No. 3 Fall)

  • reports that a law firm recently lost $131,000 paying out on a bad cheque scam. Not only was the ruse fairly typical – a phony debt col­lection using a third-party cheque – but the name used by the new overseas “client” was listed on the names and documents page.

New variations on the bad cheque scam – mergers, surety bond services (Practice Watch, Benchers’ Bulletin, 2013 No. 2 Summer)

  • reports on new scam variations phony mergers and surety bond service claims

What’s new in scams against BC lawyers? (Practice Watch, Benchers’ Bulletin, 2012 No. 3 Fall)

  • reports on recent ploys in which the scamster purports to be a ‘dismissed employee’, seeking to collect on a settlement with the former employer

Scam alerts (Practice Watch, Benchers’ Bulletin, 2012 No. 2 Summer)

  • reports on a personal injury settlement claim scam in which the new client claims injuries from a motor vehicle accident, sending a doctor's report as well as the settlement agreement;
  • reports on a fraudster pretending he's been hired to create a law firm's website
  • discusses The Little Black Book of Scams, fake websites and lawyers

Bad cheque scam – real estate purchase by Kin Hang Cheung (Notice to the Profession, June 1, 2012)
Update: 12 lawyers report this scam – law firms targeted before a long weekend (e-Brief, June 26, 2012)

  • reports on a phony real estate conveyance in which “Kin Hang Cheung” signs a contract of purchase and sale, provides a bad cheque for a deposit amount much larger than required, and then asks for the deposit back because a failed inspection or some other reason allows him to back out of the deal.

Phony debt collection twist (Notice to the Profession, January 6, 2012)

  • reports on a phony debt collection in which “Kiyoshi Yukio” and “Nan Zhang” have been emailing BC lawyers for help with a breach of an equipment lease.

BC law firm falls victim to bad cheque scam (Notice to the Profession, December 15, 2011)

  • reports that a BC law firm has fallen victim to the phony debt collection scam in the matrimonial context;
  • provides details of the scam, including the contingency fee and collaborative law agreement;
  • reports on an intellectual property twist that has surfaced in relation to the phony debt collection scam.

More bad cheque scams (Practice Watch, Benchers’ Bulletin, 2011 No. 4 Winter)

  • reports on a phony debt collection in which “Prateep Ponimdang” has been emailing BC lawyers for help to collect on a fake loan;
  • provides details of the scam, including copies of the email request and some of the documents used;
  • cautions extra vigilence at holiday season.

Fake law firm website using BC lawyer’s website content (Practice Watch, Benchers’ Bulletin, 2011 No. 4 Winter)

  • reports that a scamster copied content from a BC lawyer’s website to set up a fake law firm website, and offers prevention tips.

Bad cheque scams – new twists and confidentiality obligations (Practice Watch, Benchers' Bulletin, 2011 No. 3 Fall)

  • reports on a phony debt collection in which “David Lawson” professes to want to start a lawsuit right away, only reluctantly agrees to the lawyer writing a demand letter to the “debtor” and feigns interest in his legal rights and accrued interest;
  • provides details of the scam and the convincing documents used as evidence of the loan and the client’s legitimacy, including an attestation to identity by a Hong Kong lawyer and the real cheque from a real company received in payment, with the name of the payee altered, sent on the ruse that it was actually payment to the debtor from another creditor. 

Attention real estate practitioners: Fake law firm website used in new variation of bad cheque scam (Notice to the Profession, May 2, 2011)

  • reports on a phony real estate conveyance scam in which a sophisticated fake website - Wagner Elliott LLP - is used to fool you into believing a fake law firm is real. The details - including the fake firm used – may vary;
  • provides details of the scam, including the client’s apparent use of a BC realtor to make an offer to purchase with subjects on a residential property in BC, the signed contract of purchase and sale received from the realtor, the funds received from the client’s fake lawyer, based in Toronto, and the client’s request that you please return the funds (after deposit) as they aren't removing the subjects.

Fictitious lawyers and other twists to the phony debt collection scam (Practice Watch, Benchers' Bulletin, 2010 No. 3 Fall)

  • reports that fraudsters may enclose a retainer cheque in the initial correspondence, or send payment even before the lawyer receives a retainer or completes the client identification and verification process;
  • reports that a fake lawyer referral may include an invitation to contact a phony firm for information and cautions about the “Law Office of William Sterns” in Bangor, Maine.

Phony debt collection scams a plague - new twists (Practice Watch, Benchers' Bulletin, 2010, No. 2 Summer)

  • reports that fraudsters pretending to be lawyers are now making "referrals";
  • provides details of the scam, including the fake lawyer referral of a phony foreign client (but using the name of a real company) to a BC lawyer to collect a debt, and the authentic-looking bank draft in the name of a real BC company;
  • reports that while the initial contact is often by email, it sometimes comes in the way of a phone call or even in person.

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

  • The first report on the retainer overpayment and refund ruse. It may be seen in conjunction with another ruse such as the phony matrimonial debt collection if you press for a retainer.

Matrimonial debt collection scam ubiquitous (Practice Watch, Benchers' Bulletin, 2010 No. 1 Spring)

  • reports that the scamsters in the matrimonial debt collection scam frequently use collaborative law terminology and sometimes documents from collaborative law websites, purportedly signed by the spouses and their lawyers. The named lawyers may actually be lawyers;
  • provides details of the scam, including the fake client apparently residing in a foreign jurisdiction (often on a teaching contract in China, Japan, Malaysia or England) with a husband residing “in your jurisdiction.”

Matrimonial debt collection (Practice Watch, Benchers' Bulletin, 2009 No. 4 Winter)

On-line mortgage referral program (Practice Watch, Benchers' Bulletin, 2009 No. 4 Winter)

  • reports on a possible new twist in relation to the fake mortgage scam that involves a chance to participate in an apparent new system (fake) to receive on-line mortgage referrals through a well known Canadian bank.

New twist on phony debt collection scam (Practice Watch, Benchers' Bulletin, 2009 No. 3 Fall)

  • reports that in a phony debt collection scam in Alberta, the lawyer acted for the client several times and then became the client’s landlord, getting to know the client well before being asked for assistance in collecting a debt;
  • provides details of the scam, including the fake cheque purportedly from a Quebec law firm (the name was a real Quebec lawyer, but the address and phone number were incorrect) and the client’s request to send funds right away but hold back enough to pay some creditors.

Craigslist – scamsters preying on legitimate sellers (Practice Watch, Benchers' Bulletin, 2009 No. 3 Fall)

  • reports on a phony real estate conveyance in which the ‘buyer’ finds a home listed for sale on Craigslist and approaches the seller directly (the seller consults a lawyer);
  • provides details of the scam, including the fake buyers apparently from a foreign country (often the United Kingdom) willing to buy property quickly, and unseen.  

Fraudsters falsifying ID of major banks in counterfeit bank drafts mortgage deals (Notice to the Profession, June 19, 2009)

BC lawyers targeted in new fraud scheme — incorporation and small business loan (Practice Watch, Benchers' Bulletin, 2009 No. 2 Summer)

  • reports that the phony business loan scam in which the lawyer is initially retained to incorporate a company and then act on the loan has surfaced in BC.

Lawyers targeted in new fraud scheme — incorporation and a small business loan (Notice to the Profession, May 14, 2009)

  • reports on a phony business loan scam that’s surfaced in Ontario in which the scamster retains the lawyer to incorporate a company and then, a few weeks later, act on a small business loan;
  • provides details of the incorporation, including the client’s well-made fake ID, working number for a cellphone only, residential and business addresses (fake) that are the same and payment of the lawyer’s bill in full;
  • provides details of the phony business loan, including the client’s provision of brochures/invoices related to material he intends to buy, desire to complete the loan quickly (often before a holiday) and direction for payment to a third-party (not his company), as well as the "security" used and the names of the "lenders" involved.

Attention real estate practitioners: A variation on the bad cheque scam (Notice to the Profession, December 15, 2008)

Scams, scams and more scams (Practice Watch, Benchers' Bulletin, 2008 No. 4 October)

  • reports that in a phony debt collection scam, the correspondence appears legitimate (lists a long distance telephone number and maybe even a “1-800” number), the telephone is answered professionally and if you ask to be put through to a department (e.g. accounting), someone answers the extension.

BC law firm victim of counterfeit cheque scam (Notice to the Profession, September 16, 2008)

  • reports that a BC law firm has fallen victim to the phony debt collection scam.

Cautions on cash and new scams (Practice Watch, Benchers' Bulletin,  2008 No. 2 May)

Fraud alert – counterfeit certified cheques (Notice to the Profession, January 22, 2008)

  • the first report on the phony business loan. Sole practitioners and lawyers in small firms have been targeted in Ontario.