We’re way too smart to be fooled by that prince and his offers of great wealth, right? Yet some very clever scam artists continue to dupe unsuspecting lawyers and, occasionally, law firm marketers.
A few years ago, while working at a large law firm, I received a demand payment notice from an online directory company for services rendered. Yet no one in Marketing (my area), IT, or Operations could recall having engaged this company. For weeks, the invoice went round and round the firm. At one point, our accounts payable manager was willing to pay the bill because the firm had already spent too much time trying to sort it out. After a bit of effort, I recognized the invoice was nothing more than a scam. Why? Because the company could not prove a publicly listed office, mailing address, or business phone number within the United States.
You have to wonder how many companies simply paid the invoice.
Then this happened. I got an email notification about renewing lawyersbioservice.com, which is my domain name. I knew this was a scam from the sender’s email address and the subject line to the error-laden body copy. But before moving the email to my trash folder, I took a screenshot – for posterity – and am sharing it with you, below. Seriously. What does “De-Activation Programmed” mean?
Recently, I received an envelope, supposedly from The Patent & Trademark Bureau. The address listed was in Center City/Philadelphia. Wait. Isn’t the USPTO in Washington? Upon opening, the letter explained that my service mark for Lawyers Biography Service was due for renewal. For a moment, I thought, “this looks official enough to be legit,” but something told me it looked sketchy and not above board. I emailed my lawyer, Nathan Belzer, to get his take. Nathan’s practice deals specifically with intellectual property and trademarks, and he quickly wrote back:
“Nancy, this is a scam and should be tossed in the trash. The registration date they listed is not accurate. Your registration did not actually issue until March 28, 2017. This means the period in which to renew won’t open until next March (and is not technically due until March 2023). We have all of this in our docket system, and we will notify you once the period opens. You are likely to get more stuff like this that looks official. But, unless it comes from us, it is almost certainly not legit.”
Thank you, Nathan!
Nathan also shared a copy that he now sends to clients when applications are first filed and when registration is issued:
“As the owner of [the application] registrations, you may receive notifications from private businesses that appear to be official correspondence from the USPTO or a foreign governmental body. Attached, please find a warning from the USPTO regarding these misleading communications. If you have any questions about this warning or anything you receive in the mail regarding your trademark registrations, please do not hesitate to contact me.”
Turns out, The Patent & Trademark Bureau is located in an impressive, albeit co-working office space at 1700 Market St., Ste. 1005. And, as you might expect, they also offer private mailbox services.