Beware of ‘I’m an attorney…’ scam

Daily Mining Gazette file photo The thought of a relative being held in jail causes some people to act before they have time to think clearly. A popular ploy used by scammers is to claim he or she is an attorney representing a relative who has been arrested and needs bail money, but attorneys say they do not place such calls to people.

HANCOCK — Michigan State Police Sgt. Russell Larson discussed the recent increase in identity thefts being linked to phone scams.

One of the more popular scams, he said, is the caller will try to initiate a transaction by claiming he or she is an attorney, representing a friend or loved one who has been arrested and is jail.

The caller then states an amount of money needed to post the alleged relative’s bond.

In response, two local attorneys said in the Houghton-Keweenaw-Baraga County Court system, attorneys do not make such telephone calls.

Houghton attorney David Gemignani said in cases in which someone has been arrested, he does not place telephone calls on behalf of the client.

“That is up to the client,” he said. “I’m not a bail bondsman.”

Keweenaw County Probate Judge Keith DeForge, who also maintains a private practice in Houghton, concurred, saying attorneys do not generate such calls.

“That’s not anything a practicing attorney would do,” he said. “The person in jail would typically call a family member. The jail would let them use the phone. If there was nobody to call, they could call a bail bondsman themselves from there.”

Typically, the incarcerated person calls a family member, and the family member will sometimes look for an attorney to represent him or her, DeForge said, but attorneys do not generate calls to family members.

He added it is difficult for someone in jail to hire attorney.

“I don’t think anybody has ever hired me directly from jail,” he said. “It’s always been a family member.” He added that the usual order of procedure is for the person arrested to pay, or have a family member, pay the bail. After that, a defense attorney is hired.