The Alberta Lawyers Insurance Association (ALIA) has learned of a scam that involves what looks like legitimate emails with a Dropbox attachment or link. Appearing to be sent from a known contact, this phishing scam email works in several ways by exploiting the popularity of the file sharing service. For more information, please visit the ALIA website.
The Law Society was informed about a recent fraud attempt on one of our Saskatchewan law firms that is considered unique (ie. not the typical fraudulent cheque scam) and potentially disastrous in terms of the magnitude of monies that could have been lost.
In this case, there was both a legitimate client and valid real estate transaction. The client provided the law firm wire transfer instructions via email for the balance to close. The monies were to be paid from trust monies held by the firm to the seller’s bank account. These instructions were legitimate. However, shortly after this email, the firm then received a 2nd email from, what appeared to be the client, advising the firm that the bank account information provided previously was incorrect and that they would send the correct banking information shortly. Soon thereafter, the law firm received a 3rd email with new bank account information. Thanks to a keen eye, the firm noted that one of the names in the body of the email did not match the law firm’s records. So the firm telephoned the client to confirm the most recent instructions before any monies were paid out of trust. The client advised the firm that they had not sent the 2nd or 3rd email. This alerted both the client and the firm to the fact that the client’s email had been hacked and intercepted. As such, the firm advised the client they would only correspond with the client by telephone until the client’s emails were secure.
In order to avoid falling for such a fraud, the following controls/actions are recommended:
Please be extra diligent when paying any funds from your trust (or general) bank account, but especially by wire transfer. It is extremely unlikely, if not impossible, to reverse a wire transfer, even in cases of fraud.
If you have any questions, please contact the Law Society Auditors at (306) 569-8242.
It has been reported that a number of members have been contacted by someone wishing to retain their services for the enforcement of spousal and child support payments.
The details regarding this contract (subject to change, of course) are as follows:
Names: Martha Herrera/Martha Bildy, Nicholas Bildy
Email address – firstname.lastname@example.org
Total amount - $918,500
Outstanding amount - $672,900 to be collected
Phone Number – (505) 445-8614 (no answer)
Please beware that this is a scam and advise others in your firm accordingly.
Two fraud alerts have recently come to SLIA’s attention. The AvoidAClaim blog, created by LawPRO, offers daily insights on claims prevention and practice management, and warning about current frauds targeting lawyers. SLIA recommends members read a recent post, Recognizing the red flags of real estate scams involving corporate identity theft. Please also see the alert Fake Trust Account Auditor Scam from Alberta Lawyers Insurance Association (ALIA).
From Alberta Lawyers Insurance Association: Fake Trust Account Auditor Scam
The Law Society has been advised that two law firms have received Phishing emails containing an attachment. Please be very careful about opening emails with attachments. Extra caution is required in cases where the subject line is suspicious, the email is unexpected and unrelated to a known matter or there are spelling errors in the subject line or within the body of text.
In both recent cases involving Saskatchewan law firms, the malicious email presented as being sent from another lawyer, making it appear safe to read and safe to open the attachment. If you receive an email that appears to be from another lawyer or law firm that is unexpected, contains no specific file reference or contextual information, and is inviting you to open an unknown attachment or link, it may not be legitimate. If you are unsure about a specific email that has suspicious characteristics, best practice is to phone the sender to confirm if he or she actually sent you the email.
Further to the fraud alert posted on May 1, 2017, a number of firms advised that they have been contacted by someone using this scam; however, there is a new development.
It appears the scammer is now using a similar domain used by the law firm; for instance, if a law firm uses the email address email@example.com, the scammer will use a similar email address, such as firstname.lastname@example.org. The Law Society advises members to be extra cautious regarding emails that request a transfer of funds.
We are circulating an article about a fraud perpetrated on a lawyer in Ontario who hired an individual pretending to be a lawyer. It illustrates the importance of checking the credentials of a student at law or lawyer to ensure that they have active status with the Law Society when hiring.
He turned his fake degree into a weapon': Man posing as a lawyer tricks clients out of thousands (Source: CBC, www.cbc.ca)
We were recently advised by a member about a new scam that is being circulated.
This one is significantly different from previous scams, in that the email is addressed to a real person on your staff (ie. office accountant), using your name as the sender, but with a different email address. The email asks your office staff to “process a payment” to a vendor with details to follow. Details are subsequently provided and requests that monies be wired to the Bank of America, giving routing numbers, etc. Please see copy of the original email received by the firm reporting the scam.
A scammer recently attempted to have a member receive a fraudulent cheque into trust and pay out the proceeds before the cheque could be verified as fraudulent. Details...
A Saskatchewan law firm was recently contacted via email by someone from the Netherlands in search of a lawyer to assist in the drafting of a purchase and sale agreement with a buyer residing in the local area. To protect yourself from being a victim of such scams, please review the notice and emails.
Over the last few weeks, scammers have been very busy and successful.
One scam resulted in a "large 6 figure" shortfall in the trust account of a Toronto law firm. This shortfall occurred when the law firm's trust account was "hacked" by the fraudsters. Law Times provides further details on how this scam was carried out. All members and appropriate firm employees should be made aware of this scam and precautions taken to prevent similar occurrences in Saskatchewan.
This link also reports that another Toronto lawyer fell victim to an adaption of the old "Nigerian" scam. These scams are getting much more sophisticated, so please continue to be on the alert. Pay particular attention when funds are being received from U.S. or other foreign sources, because although the bank draft, certified cheque, etc. received may appear legitimate, it can take months before the foreign banking systems determine the item is a fraud and alerts your bank at which time the deposit to your trust account will be reversed, leaving you with a shortfall.
In addition, Slaw provides names of 4 fake law firms (3 purported to be in Toronto and 1 in Ghana), which have been tied to an international inheritance scam. Please review these links so that you are prepared if you and/or your firm is targeted. These sites (LawPro and Slaw) are good ongoing resources for scam/fraud updates and research.
If you have any suspicion that a transaction may not be legitimate, go slowly. Be sure that all client identification/verification requirements are met. Contact John Allen, Auditor/Inspector, at the Law Society before paying monies from trust if you still have concerns (569-8242).
A member of the Law Society of Saskatchewan and a member of the Law Society of Alberta were recently contacted as part of 2 similar scams. Although neither attempt was successful these scams have a bit of a different twist. Please see details (for members only).
The plaintiff, the Bank of Montreal, carries on business in Calgary and elsewhere across Canada. The defendants, who are too numerous to mention, and are outlined in the Style of Cause of the Statement of Claim, are individuals, realtors, appraisers, lawyers and corporations who are alleged to have been a part of, and in some cases, benefitted from fraudulent mortgage/real estate schemes.
The Law Society has recently been advised of a new wave of trust account frauds. Note this is a fraud, and not a scam, in that bogus cheques are prepared by the fraudsters using the lawyer's trust account information. The bogus cheques (usually in amounts of less than $20,000) are then cashed (deposited) by the fraudster with the hope that they will be honoured by the financial institution. Read more...
Lawyers should be aware that cheques written on United States bank accounts (including cashier's cheques) can take one or two months or even longer to clear, particularly if they are drawn on a smaller U.S. bank. If the cheque is found to be fraudulent (2 or 3 months later), the system will automatically withdraw the funds from your trust account, leaving a deficiency in your trust account and you will be responsible for making up the shortfall.
The key here is that the clearing system for cheques in the U.S., and no doubt in some other foreign countries, is much slower than here in Canada and scammers try to use this to their advantage.
Scammers recently tried to use this delay in an unsuccessful scam attempt in Saskatchewan. Thanks to the alertness of a couple of our members and their staff, this scam did not work, but be aware of the M.O. as the names, amounts and remitters will change in the future, but the M.O. will be similar.
This scam was similar to previous scams in that:
In this case, the scammer was "owed monies for an injury and disability resulting from an accident on the job" in Canada. The scammer had signed a Settlement Agreement and General Release prior to contacting the member. According to the scammer, 2 payments had been received, but the rest was overdue and the member's services were required to collect the remainder.
Sounds familiar so far. Now the wrinkle.
The company involved and owing the funds is from the U.S. The monies received by the member were in the form of a "Cashier's Check" drawn on a U.S. bank. (see images of Cashier's Check and scammer's passport)
These Cashier's Checks were deposited to the member's trust account on February 14, 2011, but the member was not advised until March 16, 2011 (over a month later) that the cheques had "bounced." Bottom-line, the cashier's cheque was fraudulent.
A number of members have been approached with the latest scam whereby a divorced woman from the US seeks help from a law firm in Canada to obtain funds owed by her ex-husband who lives in Saskatchewan. Please see excerpts from the actual emails between the fraudster and one of our members.
Beginning in October 2008, a number of Fraud Alerts were circulated by John Allen, CA regarding lawyers trust accounts. Please read the attached Fraud Alert Update, as well as well as a Press Release from the RCMP.
The Law Society of British Columbia has provided notice to the profession of a new scam in that province. We have had no indication of any Saskatchewan connections at this time.
The following scam was recently attempted in another province. We do not have all the details yet, but we understand it was intended to work as follows:
Further details will be provided as they become available, but please note that this is fraud, and as with other scams, this will no doubt take on many forms as the fraudsters attempt to get your trust money.
In the meantime, if you are contacted by anyone with this type of scam, please advise John Allen, CA at the Law Society office at 569-8242.
There is a new scam out there that is much harder to detect than those previously received by members. I am attaching information (cover letter and invoice) received by a member in regard to this scam for your information and it is worthy to note that:
The names and locations of the corporations under suspicion are:
I have also been advised by another lawyer that he has received numerous emails, faxes and at least one phone call on a scam similar to the one described above and in the attachment. The information provided below came directly from the lawyer contacted.
This began with a cold call on the telephone followed by this email two days later.