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New Law Society advice on protection against scams

11 February 2016

The Law Society has today launched a new webpage dedicated to helping firms protect themselves against being scammed and providing them with help and support if they have fallen victim to fraudsters.

Drawing on the disparate advice available from many agencies, our new advice is tailored to the specific business needs of law firms.

It was produced following discussions with banks, lenders and the police and drawing on their prevention materials. Our committees responsible for financial protections, conveyancing, property matters, wills and probate and technology, then provided their expertise. The result is a number of common-sense tips and covers two broad areas - human fallibility when pressurised by convincing telephone manipulation and abuse of internet technology by fraudsters to facilitate the scam.

The benefits of internet technology and email have transformed the way the profession interacts with its clients. Unfortunately, the same technology has also brought opportunities for criminals who have adapted their techniques in order to steal client-account monies and client data.

Attempts to con firms - whether by telephone or by email - into changing bank account details can be avoided by simple measures, such as exchanging bank account details with clients and transaction partners in a secure manner at the outset of a transaction, for example, in a written document (not sent by email) and in a face-to-face meeting, and making clear that you will not be changing your account details.

At a time when the profession is increasingly moving towards automation and digital communication, advice to revert back to traditional means of communication may seem a backward step. This new advice may, however, help you avoid the diversion of client monies into the accounts of criminals and the resulting regulatory and financial consequences for your firm.

Once money has been stolen, the criminals use fast money transfer techniques to quickly move the monies from one bank account to another, usually off-shore, in order to avoid interception by the banks or the police.

Many of the risks can be avoided or mitigated by ensuring that everyone in the firm is alert and keeps their knowledge of the steps they need to take up to date, as scammers are adept at quickly changing their techniques.

The new advice provides safety tips on:

  • verifying bank account details
  • email usage
  • phone calls
  • your firm's security policies and training
  • risk awareness
  • cybersecurity

It also reminds firm of what they must do if they find or suspect they have fallen victim to a scam.

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