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New twist to collaborative divorce scam

There have recently been a few developments to the collaborative family law scam that give an air of legitimacy to these types of frauds. Following preliminary exchanges of information with regard to a potential divorce settlement case, lawyers across North America receive a counterfeit cheque from the “ex-husband”. The member is asked to deposit the cheque and shortly after is asked to wire the funds back to the client’s lawyer. In recent cases, however, the scammers have named the Tanzola & Sorbara Professional Corporation, a legitimate law firm (but a fake lawyer’s name and contact info). Targets of these scams who Google the firm will quickly verify its identity and existence, leaving them more vulnerable to believing the scammer’s story. Furthermore, the scammers use a legitimate bank account to issue their cheques. Although the cheque itself is legitimate, the account is all but emptied soon after, leaving the lawyer to deposit a cheque that will surely bounce and ultimately debited from the member’s trust account.

We have included a copy of the letter that accompanied the cheque, pointing out errors in the letterhead - an incorrect mailing address (e.g. – 10 Direction Court vs. 10 Director Court), web address, incomplete postal code and a spelling error. It is also important to note that the lawyer who authored the letter is not listed on the firm’s website or otherwise associated with the firm.

To confirm the status and contact information for a lawyer in Canada or the US, consult our Lawyer Licensing Databases article.

Be cautious with all cheques received, especially if they exceed the agreed upon amount. Where possible, use the Large Value Transfer System (LVTS), an electronic funds transfer system that allows large payments to be exchanged securely and immediately.