Solicitors need to be vigilant about large debts being run up in their name as a result of fraudulent store card applications, Legal Futures Associate the Lawyers Defence Group (LDG) has warned.
The legal defence and advice organisation raised the alarm after it was revealed by one popular DIY store that a number of solicitors have been targeted in this way.
It said that in a recent case a solicitor’s name was used by fraudsters to obtain store cards with Argos and Homebase (both part of the Home Retail Group), which were then used to run up bills of over £3,500.
The solicitor received the store cards through the post and, knowing he had not applied for them, contacted the stores’ fraud department. He was told a number of solicitors had been the target of this fraud and that the criminals were using the Law Society’s website as the starting point for obtaining information.
Duncan Finlyson, a solicitor and LDG manager, said: “There is a considerable amount of information about solicitors which is readily available. The Law Society’s ‘Find a Solicitor’ service provides a significant amount of information which criminals can easily supplement by visiting a firm’s own web site, LinkedIn, Facebook, and a plethora of information web sites such as PIPL and Zoominfo.”
Although in most cases those targeted will be able to demonstrate quite easily that they have not applied for the cards and are therefore not liable for any debts which have been incurred in their name, the fraud can cause considerable disruption, and can lead to negative credit ratings and similar financial ramifications.
Mr Finlyson added: “As we become ever more involved in social networking, online databases, and individual and firm promotions, so it becomes ever easier for the criminal to use information about us to our detriment. Solicitors are seen as being a good risk when it comes to credit applications and those who steal their identities know that public records, such as the Law Society’s solicitor list, can be used to substantiate identity claims.”
The LDG recommends that all solicitors take steps, wherever possible, to limit the amount of personal information which is generally available. Solicitors are also advised to ensure that profiles on websites contain information about their jobs and not personal details that can be used to gain more information.
“Solicitors, and indeed everyone in business and positions of responsibility, should take basic steps to protect themselves,” Mr Finlyson said. “This includes keeping important personal documents and financial information in a secure place, not sharing personal information unless being sure to whom it is being given, being wary of responding to unsolicited e-mails requesting information, disposing of documents and financial statements carefully, checking bank statements and reporting any suspicious transactions.”