Mitigating the Risk of Cyber Fraud

Conveyancers are a prime target for cyber criminals as they regularly deal with such significant sums of money.  Between March 2020 and March 2021, the SRA reported 147% increase in cyber attacks on law firms when comparing the first 3 months of 2020 to the first three months of 2021.  The repercussions of cyber attackers targeting and ultimately profiting from the funds of property sales are devastating for clients and law firms who may never recover their business reputation. 

Between January and May 2021, 57% of all SRA alerts issued, relate to email fraud or phishing attempts.  This is often where sophisticated fraudsters impersonate a real law firm, usually through phishing emails, attempting to divert property transaction funds into their own accounts.

Tom Lyes Director of Engagement, Lawyer Checker, confirms:

“We know that the combination of remote working and the growth in conveyancing workloads due to the boom in the property market fueled by the SDLT holiday, means conveyancers are under often intolerable pressure.  We have seen our Account & Entity Screen searches being ordered in the early hours, so we know it is not uncommon for some solicitors to be working through the night.  It’s a really tough time for conveyancing professionals.  However, cyber criminals recognise this too and as a result, they are taking advantage of vulnerabilities in systems.  More than ever, it is important for law firms to mitigate risk for their clients and themselves.”

Although nothing is 100% guaranteed, defense strategies can be put in place to mitigate risks on your transactions with other conveyancers.  Lawyer Checker was set up 11 years ago and now employs 40 staff who are experts in cybercrime prevention.  Conveyancers using Lawyer Checker’s Account & Entity Screen can verify the details of the recipient account of the solicitor receiving funds for every property transaction quickly and easily.  Lawyer Checker’s Account & Entity Screen’s unique algorithm checks details against ten different databases in real time.  It integrates with SRA scam alerts and safeguards transactions against human error and typos.

We also offer Consumer Bank Account Checker which validates the of destination for funds for the sale of a property for customers. Covering most UK bank accounts and powered by Experian, this cost-effective check is another part of law firm’s armour against cyber criminals.

The service which can be accessed 24/7, provides a pdf report within four normal business hours offering peace of mind for clients.  It also supplies an audit trail for law firms as well as ensuring due diligence by adhering to the SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors (SCCS)  4.2 – safeguard client money and assets.

One of our main providers for Account & Entity Screen and Consumer Bank Account Checker is poweredbypie a Dye & Durham company.   Reports are ordered through poweredbypie’s online ordering platform with just a couple of clicks and reports are returned in one of three categories:

1) Frequent: Any firm returning a frequent result has a good track record. They are regularly subject to searches pertaining to conveyancing transactions.

2) Infrequent: This result means that the firm has a track record, but not all the AES checks have been passed.  We will provide further research and ‘important risk’ information, so risks outlined can be considered.

3) Unknown: the account details cannot be verified.  Further research and ‘important risk’ information is supplied for this outcome also.

Sarah Haller, Partner at Chadwick Lawrence LLP confirms:

“We’ve used Lawyer Checker for several years to verify the solicitor’s account details for all our property transactions.  It varies, but we generally complete several hundred property transactions per month, so having a system in place for all the team that’s easy to access and use is essential.   It takes just a few seconds to input the relevant account details and order through poweredbypie’s ordering platform.  A PDF report is then returned within a few hours which details any risk factors.  The cost of a Lawyer Checker search is particularly cost effective and most of our clients think it’s a small price to pay for the peace-of-mind that the account receiving funds has been properly verified.  In this way, Lawyer Checker helps us deliver a thorough service to our customers, ensuring their property transaction is a smooth as it can be.”

The Pandemic has had far-reaching repercussions.  The remote revolution has changed the nature of the working environment and it has added a further element of risk.  Now the legal sector needs to ensure that cyber security is high on the agenda for every property transaction and Lawyer Checker can help by ensuring funds are safely directed to the correct bank account.

For further information please see: www.poweredbypie.co.uk or www.lawyerchecker.co.uk

Or to learn more tips to protect your firm and clients, join our fraud and cyber-crime update webinar on 22 July at 11am: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4575261812902315790

 

James Morris is Head of Product, poweredbypie, a Dye & Durham company

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