This is the text of an email blast sent to Ontario lawyers on July 27, 2011, reminding them to be vigalent for attempted frauds over the coming August holiday weekend.
In just the last month, LAWPRO has received reports from more than 200 lawyers who were targeted by 46 different types of bad cheque fraud: 29 of these were new fraudulent matter scenarios or fraud scenarios we have seen before that used new names.
Bad cheque frauds continue to be the most common type of attempted fraud we are seeing. These otherwise legitimate-looking legal matters create circumstances to dupe a lawyer into quickly disbursing funds on a bad cheque or bank draft that was deposited into a trust account. The fraudster gets real money and the lawyer is left with a trust account shortfall. Common scenarios include the payment of spousal support arrears, business debt collections, and personal injury settlements. This AvoidAClaim blog post lists the common red flags that indicate a matter is a fraud scam.
To help lawyers identify fraudulent matters, LAWPRO is posting information on confirmed frauds on the AvoidAClaim.com blog. Click the Confirmed Frauds button to see a full list of the names of confirmed fraudsters.
For each confirmed fraud there are individual postings that allow you to see the actual back and forth communications between lawyers and fraudsters. You’ll also find images of the fake supporting documentation the fraudsters are supplying, including identification, bad cheques and bank drafts.
You can help us help other lawyers avoid being duped by forwarding copies of the emails and supporting documents that you receive on any fraud attempt to email@example.com.
Keep your guard up
Some of the fraud attempts are very obvious: Poor spelling, bad grammar and/or completely untenable fact circumstances (e.g., multi-million dollar lottery wins or inheritances) should sound alarm bells.
However, some frauds are extremely sophisticated and look like completely legitimate legal matters. Both new and experienced lawyers have been temporarily fooled into working through file opening and initial stages of the matter before they recognized or determined they were the target of a fraud. Unfortunately some lawyers are being duped by these frauds. Don’t be complacent. The fraudsters go to great lengths to create scenarios that otherwise appear to be legitimate legal matters. Recently we have seen several matters that originated with phone calls, direct and personalized emails or through firm website intake forms. The fraudsters are prepared to engage in extensive and ongoing communications over weeks and even months, usually by email, but also by phone, and on occasion, even in person. Here is an example of communications that went back and forth over several weeks . They will provide information, names and addresses that are tied to your local area.
How to handle a real or suspected fraud
If you are suspicious of a matter that you have been approached to act on, visit the AvoidAClaim.com blog to cross-check the name of the new client against our confirmed list of fraudsters. If it is the same or similar to one of our confirmed frauds, please forward any of the emails and supporting documents that you have received to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you suspect you are acting on a matter that might be a fraud, call LAWPRO at 1-800-410-1013 (416-598-5899). We will talk you through the common fraud scenarios we are seeing and help you spot red flags that may indicate you are being duped. This will help you ask appropriate questions of your client to determine if the matter is legitimate or not. If the matter you are acting on turns out to be a fraud and there is a potential claim, we will work with you to prevent the fraud and minimize potential claims costs.
If you have been successfully duped, please immediately notify LAWPRO as there may be a claim against you. Instructions on how to report a claim are here.
For more immediate updates on fraud and claims prevention, subscribe to the email or RSS feed updates from LAWPRO’s AvoidAClaim blog.
Fraud Fact Sheet: More fraud prevention information and resources are available on the practicePRO Fraud page, including the Fraud Fact Sheet, a handy reference for lawyers and law firm staff that describes the common frauds and the red flags that can help identify them.
FAQs on LAWPRO enhanced fraud coverage: On LAWPRO’s website you’ll find answers to common questions about the enhanced protection provided lawyers regarding counterfeit certified cheques and bank drafts.