Two-fold rise in scam alerts since the start of the year

Todays Conveyancer

26 October 2020

Law firms and individual practitioners across all sectors of the legal profession have been bombarded with scams while attempting to recover from the pandemic.

The legal industry has been under attack over the last few months as the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) have reported on a spike of scam alerts.

Alarmingly, during the three-month period of July to September 2020, 50% of the year’s scam alerts were sent during this time frame. 20% of these year to date figures, were sent in the month of September alone. It’s clear as the country was beginning to get up and running again after the coronavirus lockdown, that scammers were dusting themselves off and getting back into their old ways.

The SRA have reported on six separate email scam alerts impersonating law firms and a practitioner all on the same day.

All six scams were reported on 21st October where the majority had been falsely claiming to be from a law firm, and one deceitfully came from a practitioner claiming to work in the law firm. Those firms and senior practitioner involved were Middleton & Upsall LLP, Blunts Solicitors Limited, Freeths LLP, Probate & Trustees Services Ltd, Ronald Fletcher Baker LLP and emails falsely claiming to be from “Sara Cohen” of Lewis Silkin LLP.

And only a couple of weeks ago in the same month the SRA disclosed a flurry of email scam alerts in days – with all eight scams being reported on 5th, 6th and 7th October and four of them on one day.

Since lockdown measures were introduced in an attempt to clamp down on fraudulent activity, the SRA started to report on numerous scams including email or website impersonation. Back at the start May Fraudsters were on the look out for victims to scam, which saw the SRA and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) urge law firms and their employees to remain vigilant during lockdown as cyber criminals increasingly target remote workers.

A report by the Ponemon Institute and Keeper Security has found that UK businesses are more at risk from cyber attacks because of the continuous challenges caused by the majority of people working remotely.

The report revealed that 60% of respondents said their business had been hit by a cyber attack. Of those, 32% said the attacks were caused by compromised or stolen devices, while 57% said they feel their current IT security budget is inadequate for managing the cybersecurity risks that come with staff working from home.

Darren Guccione, founder and chief executive of Keeper Security, said:

“As we enter a prolonged period of remote working, it is critical that businesses feel sufficiently protected from possible cyber attacks. IT security systems are not keeping up with the demands of the new way we work.”

It is well known that moving home is one of the most stressful experiences in life but also a prime target for fraudsters. Conveyancing is a very pressurised and fast moving environment, even more so since the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) holiday, which can ultimately put homebuyers and sellers at risk of fraud – due to the large sums of money changing hands.

According to UK Finance, Bank Transfer Fraud increased by 18% in 2019, resulting in losses of £31.7m, which on average is £6,700 per victim – and only 40% of the stolen money is recovered.

With the SDLT holiday causing a huge pent up demand in the property marketplace and everyone rushing to complete before the SDLT holiday is terminated at the end March 2021, conveyancers and consumers need to be fully aware of the risks involved and costs of this type of fraud – and put in place security measures to mitigate the risk where possible.


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