Don’t Make the Mistake of Hiring an Impostor Attorney or CPA

A recent rash of impostor attorneys, accountants, and even doctors shows that careful choice of professionals is a must. Further, many easily accessible resources exist to help select advisers to manage legal and tax needs. Recent shocking news stories include:

  • A Los Angeles man was criminally charged after allegedly spending many years giving legal advice to recent immigrants and failing to obey multiple court orders to stop practicing law without a license[1]
  • A Pennsylvania woman pretended to be an attorney for a decade, working for dozens of clients, after forging bar exam and law school records[2]
  • A San Diego man allegedly posed as a CPA, tax preparer, and attorney while filing fraudulent returns for clients, falsely advising them, and even obstructing IRS tax investigations[3]
  • A Florida teen allegedly practiced medicine without ever attending medical school[4]

To investigate professionals’ credentials and avoid the scenarios above, state and national professional association or licensing records are a good start. For example, attorneys’ good standing and disciplinary records can be checked using their names and bar numbers on many states’ bar association websites.[5] Accountants’ credentials can be checked similarly.[6] The IRS also maintains a directory of licensed tax preparers.[7] Due diligence regarding professionals’ qualifications and licenses will help those seeking legal or tax help to avoid the scams recently in the news.


— By Julia Damron, Esq., Barnes Law

Julia Damron is an associate attorney with Barnes Law, licensed to practice law in California.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.


[1] “Man posing as attorney lied to immigrants seeking legal help”, June 2, 2015, L.A. Times,

[2] “Judge Convicts Woman Who Spent Years Posing as a Licensed Lawyer”, March 25, 2016, Wall Street Journal Law Blog,

[3] “United States Sues to Block San Diego Man Posing as Attorney and CPA from Promoting Bogus Tax Schemes and Preparing Fraudulent Returns”, March 23, 2015, U.S. Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs,

[4] “Florida Teenager Is Accused of Posing as a Doctor. Again.”, February 17, 2016, N.Y. Times,

[5] See, e.g. “Find Legal Help”, The State Bar of California,; “What should I do if I suspect that my “lawyer” isn’t really a licensed lawyer?”, The State Bar of California,

[6] American Institute of CPAs,; State Boards of Accountancy links,

[7] “Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications”, Internal Revenue Service,