A fake law firm going by the name of Walsh & Padilla has been offering estate planning services, the Houston Chronicle reports.
In reality, the ABA Journal notes, in its article, “Fake law firm website uses real lawyers' pictures to fleece consumers, bar lawsuit says,” the scheme’s website appears to be operated from South Africa and uses photos of lawyers taken from real law firm websites. The scammers mail letters to elderly people telling them they’ll be getting life insurance proceeds, after they provide their bank account numbers and other financial details. One senior was scammed out of $14,000, the lawsuit says.
The bar association obtained a court order to shut down the website. It is now trying to locate the web server and to serve the restraining order. The bar has also filed a criminal complaint with the local prosecutor’s office.
Walsh & Padilla marketed its real estate planning legal services to unsuspecting elderly clients on a website displaying professional looking attorneys attired in suits and ties. However, a closer look by the Houston Bar Association discovered that the law firm was fictitious and the site was created to scam seniors out of their life savings. The site has actual contact information, including a working phone number with an automated voicemail system that connects callers to the box of partner “Jonathan Walsh.”
Walsh & Padilla was first noticed by the Houston Bar Association, when its president received a call from a Houston law firm letting him know that the photo of one of the association’s partners appeared over the name “Jonathan Walsh, B.A., J.D.”
Another estate planning and probate attorney in Houston received calls from Canada. He discovered that his firm’s website had been duplicated by the fake firm. One of the calls was from a Canadian who had received a call from Walsh & Padilla, after a supposed relative died in Houston and left a life insurance policy of $6.2 million. All of this was false information. Fortunately, the caller knew to question such a claim, before sending his bank information.
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Jeff Bellomo, Bellomo & Associates