In addition to the information above about protecting yourself from a bad scam, a phony change in payment instructions or a phony direction to pay, consider these additional general tips:
- Be on high alert for scams during holiday periods or at other times when your full complement of staff may not be in their normal office routine (like during a pandemic). These times provide opportunities for criminals to take advantage.
- If you have doubts about the client or the subject matter of the retainer, obtain more information until you are satisfied that you can accept money in trust and that you can act in the circumstances. Make reasonable inquiries and record the results in the face of unusual or suspicious circumstances. If you are not satisfied with the results, withdraw.
- Establish firm-wide protocols for verifying any electronic instructions regarding transferring money out of your accounts and adhere to them. Empower lawyers and staff to resist a request to bypass the protocols because of urgent circumstances (urgency can be a red flag).
- Implement a policy of refusing to accept payment instructions by email. Require instructions and changes to be given in person or at a minimum, telephone the sender of the email to verify the instructions or any changes. Be sure to use a telephone number that has been previously provided and independently verified (not the telephone number in the email).
- Protect the records relating to your practice and the information contained in them by making reasonable security arrangements against all risks of loss, destruction, and unauthorized access, use or disclosure.
- Train your staff not to click on suspicious attachments in emails. Obtain professional technical expertise to help you protect confidential information through security measures including up-to-date antivirus software, firewalls, and strong passwords, and to detect potential security breaches.
- Review Law Society and Saskatchewan Lawyers’ Insurance Association publications and notices.
- Review your insurance and indemnity coverage with your broker and determine whether you should purchase excess insurance coverage.