An Overview of the Frauds That Targeted Lawyers in 2015

2015 was the fifth year we’ve tracked the fraud-related emails forwarded to that allow us to post our warnings to lawyers on LAWPRO’s AvoidaClaim blog. This year we noticed a new trend: the number of emailed reports declined but not the number of actual posts we’ve done. This is likely because while the fraudsters are keeping up their efforts to dupe lawyers, more and more lawyers now recognize the scams and simply delete the emails rather than forwarding them to us. Sadly, not every lawyer sees the frauds for what they are. Last week we heard from a firm in Texas that was duped out of half a million dollars, threatening to wipe out the firm.

We did 168 separate fraud-related blog posts (down from 200 in 2014 and 252 in 2013) based on about 2,000 emails to (about the same as the 3,400 and 3,500 received in 2014 and 2013) from lawyers in Canada, the U.S. and around the world. 47% of the emails came from the U.S., 45% from Ontario, 5% from other provinces, and 3% from elsewhere in the world.

The nature of these bad cheque frauds are increasingly of one type. 75% of the fraud posts were for commercial debt collections or commercial equipment purchases (where a real business is impersonated), 11% were personal business loan collection frauds, 9% were separation agreement scams, 3% were IP or copyright infringement scams, 1% were employee injury or dismissal frauds and 1% real estate bad cheque scams.

We became aware of a new kind of scam that involves impersonating the email of a senior member of a firm (law firms, as well as financial firms) or someone with access to the firm bank account to try to have funds sent to a fraudster’s bank account. The details of this scam can be found here.

We also continued to see numerous instances of Ontario lawyers and law firms having their names impersonated to further some of these scams, or scams targeting the general public. The impersonated parties were often not aware it was even happening until someone went to the trouble to try to track down the real firms or lawyers after becoming suspicious.

Fraud prevention information and resources are available on the practicePRO Fraud page, including the newly revised Fraud Fact Sheet, a handy reference for lawyers and law firm staff that describes the common frauds and the red flags that can help identify them.

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