Criminals are contacting members of the public by sending emails claiming to be from reputable law firms on the pretence that they are due to inherit substantial amounts of money. The practice, known as phishing, aims to gather personal details or money from the unsuspecting recipient – and the emails can be very professional.
One such recent scam to which the SRA has been alerted involves emails purporting to be from Lloyd Chance, an SRA regulated solicitor who worked on behalf of the law firm Lloyd Chance Law Office. The sender’s emails addresses looked legitimate, coming from firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. The SRA has confirmed that it does not authorise and regulate solicitors called Lloyd Chance or Lloyd Ford, nor does it authorise and regulate a firm called Lloyd Chance Law Office. The unfortunate recipient of this scam was further deceived by an address in Hanover Square, London, that was, in fact, an SRA serviced address, an SRA number, an official-looking domain name and forged solicitor practising certificates and deed of trust. Unfortunately, the recipient gave the scammers personal details and lost money.
The increasing sophistication of these scams is worrying, and members of the public are often being persuaded to hand over money – said to be taxes or fees payable to release the inheritance.
The SRA advises that people conduct their own due diligence and check the authenticity of the solicitor and the firm by contacting them directly (if they legitimately exist) using standard ‘established means’. You can check the authenticity of a solicitor or a law firm on the SRA’s website here.
Chris Shaw, senior private client advisor at Graysons also advises:
“There are circumstances where solicitors do need to contact unsuspecting beneficiaries. At Graysons, we will always do this by post. If you receive any communication suggesting that you are to inherit something you should:
- check that you know the person who is purported to have died
- if not, see if you can trace the person who has died (for example is it a relative of a family member who recognises the deceased)
- get in touch with the company that has contacted you directly, through its website or on an independently obtained phone number, email address or postal address
A reputable company should never ask you for any payment in advance of receiving a legacy. If the company is holding money for you, ask why it cannot deduct the payment requested from those funds.”
Author: Chris Shaw, senior private client advisor.