Fake bank accounts, fake law firms, fake clients……but not fake news!
You have probably heard of the unfortunate member of staff at a firm of solicitors who checked that a branch office was a genuine branch of a well-known law firm. Unfortunately the member of staff rang the number on the top of the branch office fake notepaper, so spoke directly to the fraudsters.
The call should of course have been made to the head office to check they had a branch at that address. The branch office scam is a well-known ruse, some may say not helped when firms use similar names.
A succession of conveyancing scams involving solicitors has seen property buyers lose hundreds of thousands of pounds. Some of the most effective scams are the simplest to avoid, but the client has to bear some responsibility as the customer’s e-mails are also at risk of being hacked.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority list the most recent fake e-mails claiming to be from solicitors. I counted 20 on their list for the month of May alone. I have just received one from supposedly American lawyers with a fake e-mail address of ‘Colliins and Collins’. The significant point being there are two ’ii’s in the first ‘Collins’.
We are all by now used to claims of unclaimed compensation, you have won a lottery, or send money urgently to an injured relative. Then there are the old favourites like log in to your on-line bank account by someone claiming to be from ‘Windows’.
But the e-mails are getting better. Initially poor grammar or spelling with an html attachment, but the fraudsters have upped their game. The carrot is the many thousands of transfers that take place each day between lawyers or lawyers and their clients.
The end goal is to have the lawyer or the client send money by electronic transfer to a fake bank account, targeting especially transfers on a Friday which will leave two days for the crime to be realised.
– So have your lawyer write to you from the outset with his/her client account details.
– Do not accept any change of account details without speaking personally to the lawyer.
– You must write to your lawyer with your bank details. If you must e-mail them then ring him/her up afterwards to confirm them. Try sending or asking for a test payment of say £1.
– Accept it is very probable that your e-mail address has been hacked and possibly many months ago. The hacker will just be waiting for an opportunity.
– The average time from the first virus to its use and money stolen is in excess of 200 days!
Paul Wilks and co.
Property and Probate Specialist
3 Garfield Road,Ryde, Isle of Wight, PO33 2PS.
[email protected] Tel: (01983) 614657