The Federal Trade Commission is warning that scammers have been setting their sights on attorneys, accountants, doctors and other holders of state licenses or certifications.
According to an FTC alert, scammers are creating official-looking fake emails alerting recipients that their licenses will be suspended unless they pay past due fees. With some of the scams, they insist money is wired over by the close of business, while others demand the victim give a credit card number on the spot.
In one take on the scam, the fraudster will say someone has filed a complaint against the professional, and the victim is told to click on a link, which actually installs malware on their computer. The FTC acknowledged that State Bars and Boards do communicate with its members on a regular basis through email and do charge annual dues, but it’s not likely members are going to hear about their license being on the line for the first time through an email that requires immediate action.
“What should you do if you get a message claiming your dues are overdue, a complaint has been filed against you, the sender needs your trust account number or your license is at risk? Call the Bar or Board directly. Just don’t use a phone number in the iffy email. Use one you know to be genuine — for example, the number on your membership card,” the FTC said.
The FTC’s warning comes at a time when professionals are more on the radar of the scammers. Prosecutors in the U.S. just charged three citizens of China with trading on corporate secrets they got their hands on by hacking the networks and servers of law firms that were working on mergers and acquisitions. According to a report by Reuters, Iat Hong of Macau, Bo Zheng of Changsha and Chin Hung of Macau were charged with wire fraud, insider trading and computer intrusion in an indictment filed in Manhattan federal court. Reuters reported the three made more than $4 million by trading shares of five or more companies based on the information they gleaned from the hack.