An extraordinary warning today from the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority that fraudsters in Britain have set up phony law firm websites, sufficiently genuine looking that there’s a real risk of fraud.
Bogus firms: Are you at risk of being cloned?
The SRA has an excellent list of suspicious factors to watch out for:
Some examples of factors giving rise to suspicion are1
errors in letterheading—in one case the bogus office had letterheading which misspelt the name of the town in which it was supposedly based
no landline telephone number—note that numbers beginning with 07 are mobile telephone numbers;
inconsistent telephone or fax numbers with those usually used by the firm;
telephone calls being diverted to a call-back service;
a firm apparently based in serviced offices;
email addresses using generic email accounts—most law firms have addresses incorporating the name of their firm; if in doubt, check the genuine law firm’s website to identify its contact email address. You may well notice a difference;
sudden appearance in your locality of a firm with no obvious connection to the area, probably not interacting with other local firms at all;
a firm appearing to open a branch office a considerable distance from its head office for no obvious reason;
a firm based in one part of the country supposedly having a bank account in another part of the country—this is a strong indicator and has been seen several times;
a client account apparently overseas—this is a breach of rule 13.4 of the SRA Accounts Rules and is a major red flag;
a strange or suspicious bank account name—such as the account not being in the name of the law firm you are supposedly dealing with either at all or by some variation.
A small number of bogus firms have sprung up in recent months. We are keen to ensure that you do not have your identity stolen in any way so we have issued some guidance to both firms and the public to be on guard. The latest of these is a bogus website www.bains-cohen.com, which is not a legitimate website of solicitor’s practice, Bains Cohen Solicitors LLP.
Bains Cohen Solicitors LLP is a legitimate solicitor’s practice authorised by the SRA and their legitimate website is www.bainscohen.com. The firm is based at four offices: 61a East Street, Barking, Essex; Central House, 1 Ballards Lane; 10 Fenchurch Avenue; and 91a Weston Park, Crouch End, all in London.
The following contact information is NOT correct for Bains Cohen Solicitors LLP:
Suite 1097, Kemp House, 152-160 City Road, London EC1V 2NX
Tel 0203 627 4664
Fax 0203 627 4767
If you do discover that you have fallen foul of this sort of deception, you should
contact [your law society] and your insurers, and
consider legal action such as an injunction to stop misleading statements or to freeze assets if money has gone missing.