Cybercrime issue is escalating, says SRA
Cybercrime issues affecting solicitor firms are increasing the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has revealed.
More and more reports are being received of firms either being contacted by con artists or falling victim to fraudulent activity, with potentially serious consequences for clients buying or selling property. The SRA is urging solicitors to step up their efforts to keep criminals out and protect client interests.
The majority of recent scams fall into two categories:
- Firms receiving calls pretending to be banks to obtain sensitive information, such as account passwords
- Emails between firms and clients being intercepted, leading to client funds being paid into fraudsters’ accounts
This is against a backdrop of continued instances of con artists pretending to be solicitors, using either fake names or stealing the identities of genuine firms. Alerts about such scams are posted on the SRA’s website at www.sra.org.uk/alerts.
Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said: “Law firm client accounts are being targeted and solicitors and their clients are suffering disruption and potential loss. It is essential that firms understand the risks and take precautions to avoid falling victim to these attacks.
“This is an issue that is not going away. This is obvious not just from the reports we are receiving direct from law firms and members of the public, but also in our discussions with local law societies.”
The SRA has warned repeatedly against the threat of cybercrime since it was first highlighted in its Risk Outlook spring update in February last year (http://www.sra.org.uk/risk/resources/online-crime-legal-business.page). The risk has not eased, however, and criminals are using increasingly sophisticated methods to obtain money or sensitive information fraudulently.
Firms are advised to check their systems for guarding against cybercrime attacks. Advice on steps to take in the first instance are available from:
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cyber-risk-management-a-board-level-responsibility
Federation of Small Businesses: http://www.fsb.org.uk/policy/assets/fsb_cyber_security_and_fraud_paper_final.pdf