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Solicitors' Christmas Fraud Warning

By Deborah O'Riordan
Practice Leader - Risk Solutions

As the festive season descends upon us once more, here's a trio of nightmares that a modern-day Solicitor by the name of Ebenezer Scrooge might have to contend with. We offer some ideas to save you from potential headaches: ...

Over the summer, we saw a spate of frauds affecting many firms. The holiday period had been targeted as a time when defences would be low, particularly in smaller practices where resources would be stretched. So we ask you to be on high alert over the Christmas period as there has already been an increase in fraud notifications, seemingly based on hacking Solicitors' email accounts to infiltrate the conveyancing process with bogus payment details. When no validation and approval process is applied to changed payees, this allows the fraudsters to easily divert funds to their account. We urge you to be on high alert and to apply additional controls as follows:

  • Protect your IT systems: Our Guidance Note on Solicitors Cyber-based Fraud issued through the QBE Blog on June 16 remains highly relevant.
  • Raise fraud awareness with clients: Explain the risks and operate robust controls to exchange payment details at the outset of the transaction and preferably in-person when you meet clients. Explain that your firm will not provide or accept changed bank details, or confirm existing ones, unless in person and that any such requests will be independently validated as part of your firm's anti-fraud measures. 
  • Review your anti-fraud measures: Our latest Fraud Prevention Checklist focusses primarily on robust payment and payee controls.

Our latest article is on the subject of Secondment Risk and the problems arising from not having robust agreements and clear handover processes in place.

If you've got big plans for 2016 and beyond involving merger or acquisition, please read our Mergers Guidance Note to look ahead and see what can and often does go wrong, and the controls that might help the process run more smoothly.

We hope this guidance protects you from your own Christmas spectres!

From all at QBE, may we wish you a joyful Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Your contact

Your contact

Deborah O'Riordan

Deborah O'Riordan

Practice Leader - Risk Solutions

Tel: +44 20 7105 5528