We have previously reported a fraud alert (review here: https://www.lians.ca/news/fraud-alert/2020/07/27/fraud-alert-fake-law-fi…), that is similar to this alert recently posted to the Law Society of Alberta website, with a scenario that could also threaten Nova Scotia lawyers:

The Law Society of Alberta (the Law Society) wants to alert the public and Alberta lawyers about a business, “Lawman & Associates”, purporting to be a law firm. The business operates a website at https:/lawmanslaw.ca. The individuals associated with the business are falsely holding themselves as members of the Law Society and are offering legal services. 

The personal information and photographs used on the “Our People” section of the “Lawman & Associates” website are the names of real Alberta lawyers, but the Law Society has confirmed that the lawyers listed are not associated with the business and the information is being used without their permission. 

The Law Society also obtained an Advance Fee letter associated with the website which was purported to be written by an Alberta lawyer. The letter indicated there was an unclaimed life insurance payout available to the recipients and “the Alberta lawyer” wanted to share 90 per cent of the funds with the recipients with 10 per cent going to charity. The Law Society has received other reports of similar letters sent from “Lawman & Associates”. 

The fraudulent website was reported to the website hosting provider in August and we were informed the matter would be investigated. Periodic checks through September and October reveal that the “Lawman & Associates” website is still fully operational. 

Some of the impacted lawyers have contacted local law enforcement, but without a suspect and this likely being an online scam, there is little action that can be taken other than raising awareness.  

Actions to be taken by lawyers and law firms

Lawyers, law firms and staff are often the targets of fraud, which is a growing problem in Alberta. Many of these schemes are elaborate, with fraudsters going to great lengths to attempt to appear legitimate. Lawyers and staff should watch for suspicious emails and be skeptical in providing too much information, especially if someone is trying to collect information about the law firm, or if they are seeking personal or financial information.

Other steps that lawyers and law firms can take is to report these types of activities to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

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 (or relevant law society 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, and to report or seek advice on dealing with fraud and scam attempts, contact Cynthia Nield at cnield@lians.ca or 902 423 1300, x346.