In July 2014 we warned about fraudsters targeting solicitors to gain access to their client account (click here to read). On 19 February 2015 the Law Society issued a Scam Alert indicating that this fraud is getting worse.
Since July, we have regrettably become aware of further solicitors' firms who have been targeted by fraudsters asking for confidential details relating to their bank accounts. However, the Law Society's Scam Alert reveals that licensed conveyancers' firms are also being targeted. For any firm, such a fraud has potentially drastic consequences from a regulatory, insurance and personal viewpoint. However, those undertaking property work will be particularly worried that the fraud could place the completion of purchases and re-mortgages in jeopardy.
The sheer number of firms being targeted shows that the fraudsters are sophisticated and are evading detection. The Law Society refers to the fraudsters this week purporting to be from Lloyds Bank but we know that other banks are also mentioned in the frauds.
A new development is that it would appear that the initial intelligence (that allowed the caller to appear legitimate by quoting confidential banking information) was obtained via spam emails that someone in the firm inadvertently opened. Therefore, all employees must be warned of the potential risk of opening bogus emails. When was your firewall software last upgraded?
It is worth repeating our advice of last summer. To reduce the risk of being the next victim of this fraud you must:
- Be wary of suspect emails from unknown sources and only open emails that you know are legitimate
- Never give any access or security information to anyone over the telephone or by email, regardless of how genuine they appear
- If you do receive a call or email, before responding, contact your bank's relationship manager to verify the contact number or email address. Only proceed when you are totally satisfied
Finally, if you are a victim of any fraud you must immediately contact:
- Your bank
- The Police
- Your brokers/insurers
- Your regulator
Taking immediate action may help to reduce the scale of this fraud.