Beware the Fake China Law Firm
Counterfeit drugs, money, razor blades, cigarettes, baby food, shoes, music, auto parts, software, purses. None of that shocks anymore. This is China.
Pretty much every month, my law firm gets contacted by someone who has been scammed by a fake in China. The fake could be a product. A nonexistent factory factory. A person who takes payment on behalf of a company with which they have no connection. A fake doctor. A fake architect. A fake law firm. A fake lawyer.
Everything Can Be (and is) Faked in China, Including Law Firm
Sadly, there are plenty of fake China lawyers out there, and by fake, I mean people posing as lawyers who are not lawyers and yet claim to be. These fake lawyers and law firm will take your money to register foreign company trademarks in China or to draft a China contract for you, and then do nothing, and then disappear. This scam has become common.
A Mexican company recently told me that it sent $1800 to what they thought was a legitimate Chinese law firm to have their company’s brand name, product name, and logo registered as China trademarks. As soon as the $1800 hit China, they were asked to send an additional $750 to “cover the filing fees,” which they did.
A week later the Chinese “law firm’s” website was down and the “law firm” was gone, along with the money. I have heard similar stories nearly every month for about twenty years.
This scam has, if anything, become even more common than ever before and some of these fake lawyer websites have become so convincing that even the lawyers at my law firm who are fluent in Chinese cannot tell that they are fakes just from the websites. We are also seeing real Chinese lawyers favoring Chinese companies at the expense of their own foreign clients. See China Contract Drafting Scams: From Bad to Much Worse.
The increasing sophistication and ruthlessness of these scams highlights an urgent need for heightened vigilance and robust verification processes when dealing with China today. Due diligence before sending money to anyone overseas — especially to China — is essential.
There are Plenty of Real (and Good) Chinese Law Firms
Though the issue of fake law firms exploiting foreign businesses is a significant concern, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that these fake law firms having nothing to do with (or anything in common with) real Chinese law firms, of which there are plenty of good ones. The trick for foreign companies is in distinguishing the real from the fake, and that is getting increasingly more difficult.