Regulator: Bogus law firm problem ‘not going away’ as report says they exceed 700 a year

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And almost half involve criminals cloning the identity of an existing law firm


The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has advised law firms and members for the public “to remain vigilant” after it emerged that reports of bogus law firms had doubled since 2012.

The stats show that last year the regulator received over 700 reports relating to bogus firms. Astonishingly, almost half of the reports concerned fraudsters copying the identity of a genuine SRA-regulated firm.

Criminals will create fake websites, emails and phone numbers to dupe unsuspecting members of the public into thinking they’re dealing with a real law firm, and in turn, part with their cash.

According to the report the latest trick by criminals is to impersonate “senior law firm figures.”

Acquiring their details — which are usually available online — fraudsters will then email the accounts team pretending to be the senior lawyer, requesting they transfer cash to pay an invoice. According to the SRA, this usually “takes place on a Friday, so as to give the criminals more time to avoid detection.”

Paul Philip, SRA chief executive, said:

Many of the risks we are highlighting will be familiar to those in the legal sector. However, this does not make them old news — the challenges around areas such as cybercrime are changing rapidly and require constant vigilance. Well informed staff and good processes are just as important as antivirus systems in staying cyber secure.

According to a Law Society report a quarter of law firms have been the target of “cybercriminals”, with nearly one in ten suffering a financial loss a direct result. Continuing, Philip said:

We want to see firms proactively making sure their clients are also aware of the risks in this area. For instance, we would recommend that people avoid sharing bank details over email, or transferring money before confirming the source of any request.

Earlier this year Legal Cheek reported how scammers had cloned the website of national giant Burges Salmon. Creating a fictional firm called ‘Owen & Harvey Solicitors’, the would-be fraudsters lifted the genuine profile information and images of Burges Salmon lawyers.