Solicitors Warned Over Rising Cases of Probate Fraud
Posted Dec 10, 2019.
The National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre - known as ‘Action Fraud’- has recently published some worrying statistics that illustrate the increasing occurrences of online fraud in the UK, including its impact on solicitors working in the wills and probate sector.
Action Fraud is keen to increase awareness of a type of online scam known as ‘push payment fraud’, or ‘PPF’ for short. A push payment fraud involves a third party (the fraudster) being able to trick an individual or a business into sending them a payment under false pretences to a bank account which is controlled by the fraudster. The scam relies on the fact that these payments, usually made via real-time payment technology providers such as the Faster Payments, are irreversible. This means that once it becomes clear that the innocent party has been the victim of a scam, it is too late to change the payment. According to Action Fraud, over £208 million has been lost to PPF scams in the first half of 2019 alone.
As a result of the rise in PPF, Solicitors and law firms working in the wills and probate sector have been warned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (‘SRA’) to be on the alert, highlighting that the legal sector itself has lost over £730,000 to PPF in the first half of 2019. The SRA is also publishing ever increasing numbers of warnings to its members, with 39 alerts based on cyber-crime scams being published in the final quarter of the year, a big jump on previous quarters.
The two most recent SRA warnings published in December both involved unclaimed inheritances. In the first case, an email was sent to unsuspecting individuals purporting to be from a real, legitimate law firm, in this case a ‘John Cahill’ at ‘Stewarts Law LLP’. The bogus emails state that the individual has been identified by the ‘law firm’ as being entitled to a share of a £3 million estate, and that to be able to claim their share, they need provide address, ID and bank account details. The email then foes on to state that the ‘holding bank’ would then “proceed with final clarification / reveal further details and documents” regarding the supposed inheritance. Once the details of the individual have been provided, funds are then diverted to the scammer’s bank account.
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