We issue several fraud alerts each year, and continue to receive daily reports from lawyers around the province. You should always be vigilant to fraud, but particularly a) over the course of the pandemic, where scammers target distracted staff and impermanent workplaces in hopes that these vulnerabilities will delay detection of scams; and b) around the holiday season, as scammers frequently target firms in hopes that the extra banking closure days will further delay detection of a scam.

The holiday season also sees “timely” scam attempts (e.g. your ‘grandson’ calling for bail money after a breathalyzer checkpoint fail may not actually be your grandson). Read more “Holiday Scams and Frauds” from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

With bad cheque schemes, a lawyer is retained by a bogus client and receives funds into his or her trust account by way of a cheque or bank draft that appears legitimate. A sense of urgency with the transaction is often implied by the client. As a result, within days of receiving the funds and depositing them to the trust account, the lawyer pays out funds from the account before learning (sometimes many weeks later) that the funds were bogus, the cheque returned and his or her trust account debited.

Scammers frequently target firms just before a holiday weekend, as they know that this is a time when offices are often short staffed and transaction details might not be checked as closely as they might otherwise be. Also, the extra banking holiday will result in delays in the return of counterfeit cheque or bank draft to the firm. If you do decide to proceed with a transaction where the funds are received and are to be paid out within a short period, be sure to go to the bank website to verify branch transit number, address and phone number on the cheque. Wait until the bank confirms that the funds are legitimate and are safe to withdraw from the deposit. Where possible, use the Bank of Canada’s Lynx system (formerly the Large Value Transfer System (LVTS)), an electronic funds transfer system that allows large payments to be exchanged securely.

Remember that you must always confirm a prospective client’s identification in accordance with the Client ID Regulations of the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society.

Be vigilant with every request for services that you receive, not just those received via the Internet. Fraudulent requests for services can be made by mail and courier, as well as by individuals who arrive in person to retain you and to use your trust account to receive and disburse funds. Be cautious with all cheques received, especially if they exceed the agreed upon amount.

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

LIANSwers v78, November 2022