More and more, scammers are targeting lawyers by sending forged emails to law firms, clients and financial institutions. The wire fraud scams typically involve a compromised email account, which can be the lawyer’s, the client’s or even the bank’s. Scammers monitor the account to uncover pending transactions, such as a real estate purchase, a loan or the settlement of a lawsuit.

At the appropriate time when the parties are expecting a request for funds, the hackers (who often know exactly how much money is being transferred) will send wire instructions.

The funds are immediately swept from the account, and the hackers disappear. The emails usually originate from an address that appears to be from a legitimate sender but uses a slightly altered domain name.

Sometimes the scammer will request a change to previous wire transfer instructions after a request has already been made or suddenly require funds be transferred by wire when the original agreement was to pay by check.

Prevent Wire Fraud Scams at Your Firm

To prevent becoming a victim to one of these scams, exercise a healthy dose of skepticism before any money is wired for a transaction.

  • Look for inconsistencies with email, such as various email addresses in use and different spellings of a name.
  • Be wary when a party suddenly changes their normal procedures, including instructions to wire money to a different account, using a personal email address as opposed to their usual work email or contacting a different person at the company.
  • To confirm a proposed change, first call the intended recipient to verify the information is accurate and legitimate before transferring any funds.
  • Instruct your clients and others that email instructions regarding wire transfers should always be viewed skeptically, and confirmation by phone is an absolute must.
  • Consider avoiding wire transfers, if possible.

While the UCC protects the sender of a stolen check with a forged endorsement, no such protection is afforded to funds wired to the wrong account. Sending money through mail or by hand may be slower and more cumbersome, but in today’s present climate, it’s far less likely to result in stolen funds.

Your practice may also need to consider Cyber Liability Insurance to protect against the risks of cyber attacks and scams. Contact a Lockton Affinity representative to learn more about your practice’s coverage options.