Australian law firms are the newest victims of a Nigerian bank-style trick that swept through North America last year, targeting millions set aside in lawyers' trust accounts.The Law Society of NSW has cautioned firms after numerous firms reported counterfeit approaches from Asian companies looking for their services in debt collection matters.

The fake clients ask the firm to write a demanding letter to gather a debt from a company in Australia. After this,the 'debtor' sends a cheque for hundreds of thousands of dollars to the firm, and the 'client' asks for an electronic refund minus the firm's fee ahead of the forged cheque has completed processing.

The scam companies claim to be in Japan, mainland China or Hong Kong, as they were when they cheated several Canadian and US lawyers a year ago.In most of the cases the company names are real but the information is false, allowing the scammers to exploit the reputations of well-known businesses. In certain versions of the scam, even fake employ secretaries are employed to reply bogus phone numbers on bank cheques and certify that they are 'genuine'.

The Law Society's Trust Department issued in a statement that several firms across Australia are the victims of such fake emails.