Sunday 3 January 2016

Phish on Fridays

‘Friday afternoon scams’ continue to be on the increase and cybercrime is set to be one of the hot areas of risk for conveyancing firms in 2016.

Such scams may involve fraudsters hacking into a law firm’s systems.This could apparently be done by the simple expediency of sending an seemingly trustworthy email with an attachment.

Once clicked, this downloads malicious software and allows the thieves to intercept emails, send emails of their own using fraudulent addresses, divert huge sums of money and stop completions going through.

It’s called Friday Fraud because they know the best time to hit is on a Friday, the busiest time for conveyancing, when employees may be less alert to fraudulent approaches.

What should a conveyancing solicitor do if a client provides new bank account details part way through a transaction? With these types of fraud on the increase, a client providing new bank account details should raise an immediate red flag. If this happens, solicitors should call and speak to their client and request an explanation for the need for the change. As demonstrated by the above, if e-mails can be intercepted, so can letters, faxes and other forms of written communication (and even write-protected electronic documents can be hacked and altered), so solicitors should also request and obtain evidence that the new account details are genuine.

A further option would be for solicitors to ask for original bank statements for the new account. Alternatively, solicitors can check with the bank to make sure that the account details and account name are correct. Some banks won’t be able to provide this information without the client’s permission, but some will acknowledge if the account name matches what they have on their records.

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