New instances of an old website spoofing scam have recently been reported by lawyers across North America. Although there are numerous versions of this scam, the basics are these: lawyers are contacted by what appears to be another lawyer looking to complete a transaction, who provides a seemingly legitimate website and contact information for their “firm”. These emails will often feature logos or other legitimate information in order to appear to be an authentic communication. After “proving” their existence, the scammer from the bogus firm then begins a fraudulent trust cheque, certified cheque, bank draft, or other scam looking to debit the lawyer’s trust account; or to have them download a virus to their system.
Ultimately, these sites are discovered to be a ‘mirror’ or duplicate of a website for a legitimate law firm, and at times even features actual lawyers’ names and photos. It becomes clear after the fact, however, that the email addresses and/or telephone numbers featured on the mirrored website are phony, and connect with the scammers – not the intended lawyers.
As always, sensitive personal data and/or banking information should never be shared because of an unsolicited communication. It is best to contact the company, firm or person directly (without responding to that email), in order to independently verify the sender. Use the NSBS Lawyer Directory to verify a lawyer’s identity and obtain their contact information to ensure that you are not speaking with an identity thief or scammer. Overall, where possible in transactions, use the Large Value Transfer System (LVTS), an electronic funds transfer system that allows large payments to be exchanged securely and immediately.
Links and attachments in unsolicited or unanticipated emails should also not be accessed unless the sender can be positively verified, as they may contain viruses. If a bogus attachment is opened and the user does not have anti-virus software or firewall programs on their computer, their system could be infected.
For tips to avoid being victimized, visit the Fraud section on lians.ca. To report or seek advice on dealing with fraud and scam attempts, contact Cynthia Nield at [email protected] or 902 423 1300, x346.