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Scam towards China franchise or licensing lawyer

China franchise lawyer


Recently I have received a number of emails purporting to be from a number of different high-ranking individuals based in an overseas company. The company itself is legitimate, and a simple Google search confirms that the people who have supposedly sent me the emails are high-ranking individuals at the company. Moreover, the company appears to be a large and very well-capitalized one. The multiple emails I received are from several different "officers" of the company. Each of the emails looks basically the same, and each one of them originates from a gmail address from one of the supposed officers.

Interestingly, unlike the dozens or hundreds of other scam emails I've received, this one appears to specifically be targeted at franchise attorneys. The initial solicitation that I've received from every one of these alleged officers says something along these lines:

We had a franchise agreement with a company in your area and we would like to retain you to resolve this matter. If you are interested please advise us on your initial retainer fee we shall forward you the agreement for you review.

Scammer Name

I did respond to the first such email and asked for additional information about the specifics of the "matter" which the company would supposedly be "retaining me to resolve." I did receive back a rudimentary franchise agreement purporting to be with a company in my home city. In this poorly-drafted agreement, my would-be client supposedly paid a significant initial franchise fee (over $500k), but it was difficult to tell what the money was paid for (i.e., what marks were being licensed, and where would the putative franchise be operated?). Also, I was unable to find any evidence that the alleged licensor ever actually existed.

Upon my further follow-up -- where I asked a number of questions about the purported licensor, about the business being licensed, etc. -- the would-be client replied by simply asking me to provide my initial retainer fee, refusing to answer any of my substantive questions about the supposed dispute.

I've come to the conclusion that the emails are a scam and have stopped corresponding with the putative client. I think it's a type of check fraud scheme like the ones reported on in an ABA Journal article with related topic.

I think the idea is that I would quote a substantial retainer (given that the client is from overseas), and then shortly after I received a check for the funds, the client would say that they "resolved the dispute" and ask me to refund the retainer. I would cut a check for the refund, and then several weeks later -- after the refund check is cashed -- learn that the original check was fraudulent.

This is the first such scam I have seen that appears to be specific to franchise practitioners. I'm 95% certain that it's a scam for the reasons I list above, but I do have a small shadow of a doubt. As a result, I thought I would share it with the group and would like to know if anyone else has received similar solicitations.

As a Chinese franchise lawyer, I won't be trapped by the scam, but it is interesting occasion in your legal life.

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I am a licensed China lawyer. Most clients are foreign nationals and companies. China Lawyer Blog have associates in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Suzhou, Nanjing, Qingdao, Fuzhou, Hainan, Hefei, Wuhan, Xian, Changsha, Xiamen and Hangzhou. Learn More

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China Lawyer BLog AuthorPeter Zhu, an experienced China attorney licensed to practice law for more than ten years, the author of this China Lawyer blog, welcomes any enquiry or consultation related to Chinese law.