Tips for Protecting Trust Accounts from Fraud

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Fraudsters continue to target attorney trust accounts with variations of the phony cashier’s check scheme. These tips can help safeguard you and your firm against check scams and fraud:

“Available funds” does not equal collected funds. Even if the bank makes a check’s funds available within two days, it does not guarantee that the actual check will be paid. Fake checks often take up to a week to get returned because scammers put fake routing numbers on the checks.

Be sure to wire only “collected funds” from your trust account. Wired funds are very hard to recover if a check is returned as counterfeit.

Closely examine cashier’s checks. Scammers will counterfeit certified bank checks from nearly every major bank and credit union. For a complete list of counterfeit check alerts, visit the US Treasury Department website at https://occ.treas.gov/news-issuances/alerts/index.html.

Be wary of doing business with out-of-state clients via email. Look for suspicious generic terms in the emails like “your jurisdiction” and for poor grammar.

Question how the client found you. If the client is requesting services from you which are out of your area of expertise that is a warning sign that something may be awry.

MONITOR YOUR TRUST ACCOUNT REGULARLY! Check your account regularly to make sure all transactions posted are ones you authorized. Report any fraudulent or suspicious activity immediately.

Keep your staff informed so they can spot the tell-tale signs of fraud.

If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is..

By following these tips, knowing your clients, and monitoring your trust account, you can protect your firm and yourself from scams and frauds.

If you believe that your firm has been subject to an attempted or successful fraud, contact The Florida Bar at (850) 561-5600.