While we have been posting about frauds targeting lawyers since 2010, 2013 was the first year we started posting monthly statistics for our fraud-related blog posts and emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. This has allowed us to track short term trends in certain kinds of scams, as well as look at the big picture at year’s end. So what did we see in 2013 and how did it compare to the previous year?
We did 252 separate fraud-related blog posts (up 80% from 2012) based on 3,550 emails to email@example.com (a 40% increase from 2012) from lawyers in Canada, the U.S. and around the world. 58% of the emails came from the U.S., 34% from Ontario, 3% from other provinces, and 5% from elsewhere in the world.
126 (53%) of the fraud posts were for commercial debt collections, 54 (23%) were business loan collection frauds, 41 (17%) were separation agreement scams, ten (4%) were IP or copyright infringement scams, five (2%) were employee injury or dismissal frauds and two (1%) were real estate bad cheque scams.
We also saw numerous instances of Ontario lawyers and law firms having their names impersonated to further some of these scams, or scams targetting the general public. The impersonated parties were often not aware it was even happening until someone went to the trouble to try to track down the real firms or lawyers after becoming suspicious.
Unfortunately, despite all these warnings last year we heard of a number of lawyers (some in Ontario, some elsewhere) that were successfully duped for hundreds of thousands of dollars. For that reason, we will continue in 2014 to keep a close eye on the suspicious emails lawyers send us and post warnings as fast as we can.
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.