Fraudsters continue to target lawyers and their staff in relation to trust funds
See below for a fraud alert circulated by the Law Society of British Columbia today. We are seeing similar fraud attempts in Ontario.
Fraudsters continue to pose as individuals working in law firms or as clients or clients’ lenders, all with the goal of tricking lawyers into transferring trust funds to them. A number of BC law firms have reported being targeted by the “phony direction to pay” fraud. In this scam, the fraudster “spoofs” a lawyer’s email address, making it appear that the email is sent from that lawyer by displaying their actual name in the “From:” line. The email asks another lawyer or staff member to transfer funds on some pretext such as urgency, the need for extreme sensitivity or because the lawyer is away. Another firm that held sales proceeds in trust for a real estate client was the target of the phony “change in payment instructions” scam. That firm received revised payment instructions by email from someone that the firm believed was the client but who was, in fact, a fraudster. We do not know how the fraudster knew the details of the transaction.
Find more detailed information about both of these types of “social engineering” scams, as well as our tips to help you protect yourself from getting caught, here. And remember, if you receive any request to transfer funds or any change in payment instructions, consider the possibility that a fraudster is at work. Satisfy yourself that the instructions are legitimate through direct, in-person contact with the author. Establish protocols for transferring funds and adhere to them.