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Scammers are stealing lawyers’ identities, state bar warns

Scammers are impersonating North Carolina attorneys as part of a sophisticated con targeting timeshare owners, the North Carolina State Bar is saying in an alert to attorneys.

According to the bar, the scammers reach out to owners of timeshares, often ones purchased from Mexican companies. They guarantee that they can facilitate sales at or above market value, often claiming to have buyers already lined up. The scammers request upfront legal fees or other advance payments ranging from $5,000 to $9,000. Once the funds are wired out of the U.S. by the owners, the scammers ask for more money or simply disappear.

The scammers maintain an elaborate website showing what purport to be members of a law firm. The website identifies the “lawyers” on the website using the real names and bar numbers of actual North Carolina licensed lawyers.

In the cases it has investigated, the State Bar has concluded that the photographs of purported North Carolina lawyers featured on the scammers’ website are not photographs of the actual license holders. In those cases, the real North Carolina lawyers whose names are used on the scammers’ website are not involved in the scam—in other words, their identities have been stolen to facilitate the scam.

A timeshare owner who has been contacted by a person claiming to be a North Carolina lawyer may call the State Bar at (919) 828-4620 to obtain the last known address and telephone number of the purported lawyer. Using that information, the timeshare owner may contact the actual North Carolina licensed lawyer before deciding whether to proceed with the transaction.

Victims of these scams, along with lawyers who have had their identities compromised, should contact local law enforcement, the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office, and the FBI.

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