Warning over rise in fake law firms

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Scottish solicitors are increasingly being targeted by fraudsters who use their details on fake law firm websites, according to a legal body.

The Law Society of Scotland said the fake websites looked professional.

But they use the names of solicitors who do not work there in an attempt to lure in, and then scam, unsuspecting clients.

The Law Society urged people to check the credentials of solicitors before using them.

And it has asked its members to be vigilant and to take action if they find their own or colleagues' names being listed on the website of a firm they do not work for.

Identity fraud

Ian Messer, director of financial compliance at the Law Society, said: "It seems that this kind of fraud is on the rise and we would urge both solicitors and members of the public to be aware.

"We would advise anyone who is looking for a solicitor to look at the 'Find a Solicitor' section of our website to check their credentials.

"The information is updated in real time, and only solicitors who are currently entitled to practice are listed. While it's highly unlikely that there is a problem, it is worth being cautious and double checking that your chosen solicitor is legitimate."

Earlier this month, Capital Defence Lawyers in Edinburgh discovered it had been the victim of identity fraud when its lawyers found their details listed on a website for Carter Legal Associates.

Solicitor advocate, John Scott QC, from the firm, said: "It's very unsettling to see our information being used to trick people into contacting a fake law firm, and potentially falling for an online scam. The whole experience has been very time-consuming and stressful.

"In addition to the risk to the public, there's a reputational risk for us having our names linked to a 'firm' which exists solely to scam unsuspecting members of the public. We would recommend that anyone intending to contact a solicitor or law firm checks the validity of the firm on the Law Society's website."

Imposter firm

For Capital Defence Lawyers, the problem has continued because as one fake website is removed, another one is created by the scammers under a slightly different name.

The firm continues to monitor the situation and deal with each new version of the imposter firm.

Mr Messer of the Law Society said: "We can confirm that Carter Legal Associates are not a firm of Scottish solicitors and do not employ any members of the Law Society of Scotland.

"We have reported these instances to the authorities and are urging our members to be vigilant and to let us know if they find any illegitimate use of their details.

"Solicitors and members of the public should report identity fraud using the Action Fraud website and get in touch with the society so that we can bring it quickly to the attention of the Police Scotland economic crime units who have been successful in shutting down similar pages."

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