A foreign citizen wants to enter a contract to sell some goods. They would like to retain you to complete the transaction and collect the monies to be paid by the local buyer. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are involved.

I suspect that by now, every attorney has received this basic email scam (or any number of variations) at least once, if not hundreds of times.

At some point, they all end the same. The buyer sends you, the local attorney, a check or wire transfer. Upon receipt, the attorney is asked to pay the funds over to the foreign citizen. The attorney can keep a piece as a fee. After the attorney sends the net funds to the “client,” the buyer’s deposited check proves fraudulent or the wire transfer is reversed.

This month I received a new and improved version. It began with an email:

I have a divorce settlement matter with my ex-husband. I will be grateful for your assistance concerning this matter.”

I reply. I tell her my fee for a consultation.

She responds:

I am a citizen of Indonesia and my ex-Husband is an American citizen who resides in your jurisdiction). I want you to know that me and my ex-husband had a (agreement), reached a court settlement, for him to pay me $955,550.00 USD plus legal fees. He has only paid me $248,000.00 USD, but still owing $707,550.00 USD.

This was not my first rodeo. I have been retained by foreign clients on several “real” matters. However, I am wary. Several years ago, my partner was stung, only to be saved when HSBC was able to pull back the wire transferring almost $250,000 to the client several hours after it was sent overseas.

So now, I do not go further without being sent a copy of a driver’s license and/or passport, and often other documents appropriate to the situation.

I asked, and the Indonesian woman sent me her passport (the photo above is a pixilated version). I must admit I thought the woman looked a lot younger than her claimed 53 years.

She also sent me her June 2022 Collaborative Law Participation Agreement and her Separation Agreement, both signed by the parties and their attorneys. Finally, she sent me her divorce decree (final page here attached).

I ask her for contact information for her attorney in Indonesia and her ex-husband’s local address. I tell her that after contacting her attorney, I will take the case. I send her a retainer agreement and Statement of Rights and ask for a payment on account by credit card. She signs them both, but will only pay the fee on account by check or wire transfer. I advise her I do not accept wire transfers.

She advises that she has contacted her ex-husband to let him know that she has hired me to take legal action. Lo and behold! I receive an email from the ex-husband:

I do not want to go to court or face any form of litigation. Please pause all legal action at the moment, let’s settle out of law court, Therefore, in regard to the funds $707,550.00 USD, I owe your client Mrs. [X], and also for her attorney Legal fee as started in a (agreement) , I will send out a part payment of $387,870.30 to you by check, to avoid litigation. I intend to pay the balance in a couple of weeks from the day of my first disbursement to you.

I let him know I have yet to be retained and I will not accept his check. The ex-wife advises:

regarding your Services and fees, he has agreed to make a partial payment of $387,870.30 to your firm to avoid litigation. But as a matter of precaution, i remain unwavering in this potential legal matter because they have made such promises hitherto. Please once you have received the payment deposit it and deduct your retainer fee from the sum and this will give us a good note to start.

I reply, “I will not accept the money from your ex-husband. Let him send the money directly to you. There is no need for me to be involved in this process.”

I must admit that at some point it all started to be fun. I smiled at their efforts.

“Let’s be careful out there.”