So have you ever given your checking account info to a Nigerian prince, only to kick yourself the next day when you woke up to find out $1 million wasn't deposited into your account after all, and instead you were bled dry? Well, don't kick yourself too hard - these sorts of scams can get even those who should know better, like lawyers.
Texas Lawyer reported Monday that Houston lawyer Richard Howell, of Buckley, White, Castaneda & Howell, fell victim to a similar scam that robbed his firm of $182,500.
Howell tells Hair Balls he thought he had been doing business with a Japanese company that wanted his firm to collect debt from some American clients. One of these clients supposedly deposited a Citibank check into Howell's firm's client account at Sterling Bank.
Howell says an employee at his firm called Citibank's automated check confirmation phone line, which confirmed that the check had cleared. But such was not the case - the check had ultimately been spotted as a counterfeit and returned - but not before Howell's firm authorized the release of a payment to a supplied of the Japanese company.
Howell's firm is now suing Citibank for negligence and misrepresentation - allegations that Citibank denies. Citing the pending litigation, a Citibank spokeswoman told Hair Balls the bank had no comment.
The thing is, Howell says the employee who called the Citibank confirmation line has the whole thing on tape. He tells Hair Balls that, at one point, Citibank's lawyers said the information on the check confirmation line is not "final validation," which makes Hair Balls wonder what the line is actually for in the first place, then. Shits and giggles, perhaps?
In Citibank's defense, the bank can't just buckle and pay Howell's firm $182,500, because the bank, on the heels of getting a $45 billion government bailout, is busy buying a $50 million corporate jet. (The plane seats only 12 people, so Hair Balls isn't sure how the millions of taxpayers who paid for it are all going to fit).
The moral of the story is: if something seems too good to be true, it's either a scam or a government bailout. And also: never believe anything on Citibank's official check confirmation line!
-- Craig Malisow
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.