With the rise of cybercrime and online fraudsters, law firms have been on the receiving end of some high-profile claims. With data such as client emails and account details at risk of being hacked, scammers can steal large sums of money with little or nothing that can be done to recover it.
Also known as ‘Friday Afternoon Fraud’, these scams regularly occur on Friday afternoons. This is a time when hackers take advantage of the time pressures and limited resources of law firms due to property transactions often needing to be rushed through before the weekend.
Fraudsters can target law firms in a number of ways, with one example being intercepting emails between the solicitor and the client. Known as a business email compromise (BEC), a fraudster might pretend to be the solicitor asking the client to transfer money into an account that the client believes belongs to the solicitor. In this way, criminals will trick people into sending large sums of money to them with the added advantage that the chance of detection is low given that businesses will be closed over the weekend.
This article will look at some practical ways you can protect yourself against online fraud.
If you are asked to transfer money to your solicitor’s account, call your solicitor first to check that their request for funds is legitimate. Be aware that fraudsters can intercept email threads to make it seem that they are your solicitor, so pay attention to information like the date, email address, and timestamps in the email.
There is going to be a sense of urgency with the completion of a conveyancing transaction, but be aware of anything that doesn’t feel or look right. This could be a change in tone or behaviour in your correspondence, which could suggest you are dealing with a cybercriminal rather than your solicitor.
Pause to question anything that doesn’t feel right, especially if you feel you are being pressured to take action.
If your law firm suddenly asks you to use a different bank account for any reason make sure to query it. It is highly irregular for changes in banking details to occur, especially when you have previously been using another account.
Do what you can by choosing secure passwords that are regularly updated and install anti-virus and malware protection on your computer. Consider using password apps that will create a strong password for you and enable two-factor authentication (2FA) where possible, requiring you to verify your identity, providing an extra layer of protection.
If you have been affected by online fraud as a result of a transaction and believe that it could have been avoided had the law firm carried out proper checks, you should seek independent legal advice. You may have grounds for a professional negligence claim, and a law firm such as Francis Wilks can guide you through your options.
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