On Saturday 20th April, Radio 4’s Money Box programme investigated the threat posed by fraudsters setting up bogus law firms. Money Box’s Paul Lewis highlighted a case where a home buyer was defrauded of £735,000 by a bogus solicitors firm.
The recent Nationwide vs. Davisons Solicitors case was also referred to, where fraudsters had set up a fake branch purporting to be part of a legitimate Solicitor’s firm. In both cases the firms had carried out due diligence on the sellers firm by checking out their credentials on the Law Society’s Find a Solicitor website.
Editor of Todays Conveyancer, Chris Harris, was a guest on the programme. Chris explained how new product Lawyer Checker, available from PSG, can help legitimate law firms identify when they are dealing with fraudulent individuals.
He explained that Lawyer Checker had identified nine cases in the last six months where sophisticated criminals have attempted to perpetrate frauds in a variety of ways.
Paul Lewis also spoke to Steve Wilmott, Director of Intelligence and Investigation at the SRA, he asked Mr Wilmott about the SRA’s Find a Solicitor site: “So your list is the definitive list of solicitors and it can be relied on?”
Mr Wilmott responded: “Well, not necessarily. We publish that list but what we have found on a number of occasions, not that often, but we do find that various criminals can clone the details of a solicitor of solicitors firm and use them to further their own criminal activity.”
Mr Lewis questioned whether the SRA had a role to play in discovering these fraudsters and also making sure that the list was only populated with legitimate firms.
To listen to the programme in full please click http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01s02xq .
Chris Harris said “I have been surprised about the number of cases we have become aware of where people have held themselves out as solicitors when they are not legitimately regulated. We have also identified many mistakes where the sellers representatives give the wrong account details. Knowing that the client account number to which you are sending the money has a track record of success is central to demonstrating that you behaved appropriately with your clients money.”
Lawyer Checker is available from PSG. To find out more about Lawyer Checker visit www.psgconnect.co.uk/lawyer-checker  or contact us on 01226 246 644 or email firstname.lastname@example.org