A thief hacking a laptop.Recently, the attorneys at Abilheira Law, LLC learned that they had been victimized by internet scammers from outside of the United States. These fraudsters took our website, used the name of our firm, the names of our lawyers, our photos and other online content, to perpetuate an internet scam. After reporting the misuse of our information to several agencies, we learned that the scammers stole our information and built an illegitimate website to deceive and steal money from unsuspecting victims who were targets of what is commonly known as a “romance scam”.

What is a romance scam?

A romance scam typically targets unsuspecting older women who may not be familiar with all of the warning signs. Usually, the scammers are men from foreign countries who start online relationships with these women. The relationships start innocently enough, but soon transition to requests for financial help.

The scammers may ask for money to:

  • Help get them or a family member off a ship or out of a country where they are “stuck”
  • Help recover lost luggage
  • Help get an inheritance
  • Help with legal fees to accomplish some of the above

They may also pressure victims into doing some of the following:

  • Set up bank accounts to wire money or convert money into bitcoin
  • Send gift cards
  • Send wire transfers

They may also ask for personal information:

  • Date of birth
  • Cell phone numbers
  • Social security numbers
  • Copies of tax returns
  • Bank account information
  • Credit card information

How do they involve attorneys?

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for scammers to pretend to have connections with a particular law firm and claim that the firm is helping with a legal matter. The scammers, who have created a fake law firm that looks legitimate online, will then request personal information like date of birth, Social Security number, or detailed financial information like a bank account number. As the con continues, the scammers will likely request large sums of money through the fake law firm, although it will look like it is coming from a real attorney.

How can you protect yourself?

If you meet a love interest online, be wary if:

  • They refuse to meet you in person
  • They request personal financial information
  • They pressure you for increasing amounts of money

You should be aware that lawyers are bound by jurisdiction. Attorneys are only licensed to handle cases in jurisdictions where they are permitted to practice. For example, the attorneys at Abilheira Law, LLC are licensed to practice in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island. Our firm and our lawyers do not handle cases outside of Rhode Island and Massachusetts and absolutely do not help people in other countries.

Additionally, lawyers are bound by a strict ethical code. At Abilheira Law, LLC, we insist upon meeting potential clients in person or at the very least, via telephone. We provide all clients with detailed and clear retainer agreements, indicating what work our clients are agreeing to pay for. We do not accept bitcoin as payment and we do not ask for our client’s banking information.

Report Fraud Now

Although we vigilantly monitor the internet for suspicious or fraudulent activity concerning our firm, it is impossible for Abilheira Law, LLC to prevent the unauthorized use of our name and our lawyers’ names in all cases. Due to the impossibility of preventing scammers from using the name of our firm, the name of our attorneys, and our website to perpetrate criminal scams on innocent victims, Abilheira Law, LLC is not responsible for a third party’s conduct or liable for damages caused by their conduct.

To report potentially fraudulent use of the name of our firm or firm lawyers, email allison@abilheiralaw.com or call 401-245-5100.

You can help prevent internet scams by reporting suspicious activity to your local, state, or federal authorities and the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.ic3.gov.