When is an attorney not an attorney?

There are many reasons Florida clients may consider a legal malpractice suit against an attorney, including conflict of interest, failure to know the law, or missing important court deadlines. But merely losing your case without having such a reason does not mean your attorney committed malpractice. Now imagine having this reason: your attorney is not really an attorney. That may be the case of some who stumble onto a website claiming to belong to an unfortunate yet licensed attorney George Ackerman of Palm Beach County.

The Florida Bar relates the all-too-true tale of a fraudulent website that claims to be Ackerman’s and goes so far as to list his Bar number throughout the site. It is polished and professional in appearance, with several pages of the attorney’s accomplishments, happy associates and a variety of practice areas, including fraud recovery, business law and international law.

The real attorney was tipped off about the site and tried to contact, well, himself, but was not able to speak with anyone with that name. Others have also called and were told he was in court, battling cancer, and otherwise unavailable. Ackerman has filed complaints with the state attorney general, the FBI and the FCC, but as yet, nothing has come of it. He did have some success after hiring another attorney to help him close the website, but it appeared again and again.

The site appears to be using Ackerman’s credentials to persuade people to invest in a timeshare by wiring $32,700. Documents sent to potential investors say that closing documents will be forward after receipt of the money.

The Bar has posted a note on the attorney’s membership page alerting visitors to the phony website. The real Ackerman is not associated with a large law firm and serves primarily as a professor; he teaches at the University of South Florida and Palm Beach State College.

It never hurts to check out the credentials of any professional. It also is smart to check out investments thoroughly, as well as any site that solicits money of any amount.

The information in this article is of a general nature. It is not intended to be legal advice.

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