Chances are, at some point in your life you will have to employ the services of a solicitor. But, it’s not something people generally relish! We often come into a person’s life at a difficult or stressful time and, however much we try and put people at ease, there still seems to be a fear factor when dealing with legal professionals.
Instead of meeting with us face to face, or picking up the phone to talk to us, clients often prefer to communicate via emails. We understand that this can feel easier for a number of reasons, and we don’t take it personally, but it’s important to consider that keeping us at arm’s length could leave you vulnerable to sophisticated scammers.
Solicitors firms are, unfortunately, a prime target for hackers and cybercrime. The reasons for this are numerous, including:
It’s a veritable feast of opportunity for wily fraudsters! And whilst, as a firm, we take every precaution available to prevent cybercrime, it can come down to individual clients needing to spot if something is amiss.
A recently reported case, where a hacker walked away with £350,000 intended for a house purchase, occured like this:
Reports like this, of massive amounts of money being transferred to scammers posing as solicitors, are on the rise – so we felt it was prudent to warn you of the dangers.
Whether you’re seeking support for a house sale or purchase, a divorce, a will or any other matter, here are some of the things you need to look out for to prevent hackers getting their hands on your cash.
1. Meet your solicitor!
Wherever possible, it’s always best to have a face-to-face meeting with your solicitor at the start of any process. Fraudsters have been known to set up bogus law firms online, or a bogus branch of a well known law firm, with the sole intention of stealing your money. They clone websites and emails, and can sound very convincing on the telephone and by email. A face-to-face meeting at your solicitor’s office is the best way to be sure of who you’re dealing with.
2. Make sure you know who you’re talking to at every stage of the process.
It may sound obvious, but fraudsters can be very clever and have duped even the most cautious people into believing they are someone they’re not! We would suggest telephone verification at the very least before any transfers of cash are made – where YOU call your firm of solicitors or bank, so you can be certain you’re speaking to the correct person.
3. Never send security information via email, or give this out over the telephone.
A solicitor or bank will NEVER request details such as your user ID, PIN or password via email or on the telephone. If you are asked to provide these details, no matter how convincing the reason may sound, DO NOT give them out! If you receive such a request, call your solicitor and/or bank to inform them.
4. Beware of urgent requests.
Scammers will often try to rush you, giving a reason why a transaction must be completed urgently. They may prey on your fear, saying “You’ll lose the sale if this doesn’t go through within the hour” or “If we miss this deadline you’ll have to pay another hefty fee.” They know that by doing this, they can force errors you wouldn’t normally make, so don’t be rushed into anything where money is concerned!
5. Be eagle-eyed with all communications.
We don’t expect you to be a professional proofreader – but there are some warning signs to look out for in correspondence, so it’s always worth checking emails or documents that come through to you. The following are all red flags and should be questioned:
6. Ask your solicitor about security processes
All firms of solicitors are aware of the risk of cybercrime – so ask them what steps you can take to prevent it happening to you. They should have security processes in place that will prevent you from being conned and give you peace of mind.
Walker Solicitors is a trade name of Walker Solicitors Ltd. Registered in England (Company No: 9608224). Registered office: 209-212 Stafford Street, Walsall WS2 8DW. A list of members is available for inspection at this office. We use the word ‘partner’ to refer to a member of the company or an employee or consultant who is a solicitor with equivalent standing and qualification.