This one is an oldie but goodie. It relies on three things: rushing you, you thinking you’re making a quick buck, and your distaste for counting money in front of the guy like you don’t trust him. How it goes down against lawyers is that the guy calls just before the hearing, maybe the Friday before or something. He sounds really down and he talks about how he needs your help at a quick hearing. He only has $600 or $700, he says. No problem, you say, that’s what it will cost, flat fee. Actually it will probably only cost about $400 so you’re thinking you’re going to make extra money. He will sound really relieved, but he will be too busy to come over until just before the hearing. For some reason these scams seem more popular with restraining order cases or child support contempt hearings.
When he finally shows up to talk about his case, it will be at the very end of the day before he has to go to court. He’s going to be dirty “from work” so he can’t stay. Mud, dust, grease, you name it is falling off the guy in your waiting area. He will give you his copy of the paperwork and probably a list of his two witnesses. He’s going to show you two real $100 bills but he’s going to say he can’t stay or whatever so can he give you all of the money when you meet in the morning at the courthouse? Maybe you’re going to take the two real Benjamins but he’s dirty, it’s late, you’re tired, and he’s insisting on a receipt. His girlfriend needs him to pick her up ten minutes ago, etc. You will probably tell him you trust him and you want him to just bring all $700 in the morning.
Before he leaves you will tell him with a stern look on your face that you won’t be his lawyer tomorrow if he doesn’t bring the money. Both of you know that isn’t true. You will get a nasty public reprimand from the Bar Association if you withdraw the morning of a hearing without giving the guy sufficient time to find another lawyer. But, you’re thinking, you’re going to at least get the $200, right?
So where’s the scam part of this scam, you ask? When he shows up late in the morning right before court with his pretty new girlfriend all dressed up in his best goin’-to-church clothes he will have a bank envelope. He will pull it out, make a show of counting it in a very earnest way and hand it to you like it was the last few dollars he owned. He will look all honest and serious, then his girlfriend is going to distract you with lots of ‘thank you’ over and over while he hurries you along because “his witnesses are waiting.”
It’s amazing how good the counterfeit money can be these days. In the past it was hard because of cheap printers but not so anymore. You can learn more about why it used to be hard to make fake money by clicking here or here. Of course, even I can spot a fake one million dollar bill (which by the way you can buy for .99¢ at magic shops) but decent forged bills are really good. The forgers use good paper and put them through the clothes drier with poker chips, among other things. They look and feel just like real money, especially if they get them a little dirty.
When the client hands you a stack of them, I promise you it will pass your initial inspection as you put the envelope in the file – if you even do one. Remember what I said earlier about how this one works? He’s counting on you being uncomfortable counting the cash and inspecting it like you don’t trust him. Plus he’s all cleaned up and acting honest like this is his last day on earth and he wants his conscience to be clean when he goes to meet his maker. Look, I swear he’s going to snooker you into not inspecting the money closely.
This one is so popular because there is no real downside for him. Assuming you know for sure it came from one particular person – and if you have a decent sized cash deposit you probably won’t – are you really going to call the cops on a client? If you decide to call him first to yell about paying with real money he’s going to say he will file a bar complaint about you revealing a confidence or secret. He’s going to say that money was from his mom’s boyfriend or something, it was hard-earned cash, he’s an honest person but he’s starting to get mad, etc. No sane lawyer wants to make a guy file a bar complaint against him.
Even if you get the cops involved, he will deny everything and say he got the money from the bank. He’ll even show the cops the real receipt for withdrawing $700 the evening before court. It’s a real receipt because he actually did withdraw $700 in real cash. It’s how he got the bank envelope. He just switched the real money with the fake bills before handing it to you. I bet you’re going to carefully count your cash from now on, huh.
Update 10/16/2012: Don’t forget to print the fake money on both sides. A guy named Gene Carlo Pena, who worked for a company that serviced ATMs in New York City, switched fake money for the real stuff when he was working. Cops think he stole about $11,000 before he was caught. He wasn’t too smart about it, though. His fake money was only printed on one side. Apparently the ATM’s caught a lot of the fake stuff but some people still got upset when they only got half of what they withdrew. Read the story by clicking here.