China: Where Even the Law Firms are Fake

Can You Trust Anyone in China?

In the movie, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, Ace Ventura (Jim Carrey) gets stabbed multiple times by massive spears, knifed a few times, flipped completely over a couple times, and stepped and trampled upon. He takes all this with amazing equanimity.  But when his hair gets ruffled, he becomes furious and yells, “NOBODY MESSES WITH THE [hair] DO.”


Everything Can Be (and is) Faked in China, Including Law Firms

Counterfeit drugs, money, razor blades, cigarettes, baby food, shoes, music, auto parts, software, purses. None of that shocks anymore. This is China.

But three times this month I have heard from companies that got scammed by fake Chinese law firms that take money to register foreign company trademarks in China, do nothing, and then disappear. This scam has become “incredibly” common.

A new client told me his company sent $750 to what he thought was a legitimate Chinese law firm to have his company’s brand name registered as a China trademark. As soon as the first $750 hit Shanghai, he was asked to send an additional $600 to “cover the filing fees,” which he did. Two more companies told me similar stories.

A week later the website was down and the Shanghai “law firm” was gone.

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.

October 15, 2023, Update

This scam has, if anything, become even more common in 2023 than ever before and some of these 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.

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