Wire Fraud Prevention Tip
Scammers are increasingly targeting lawyers by sending forged emails to law firms, their clients and/or to financial institutions, instructing that funds be wired to accounts controlled by the scammers. The scam typically involves a compromised email account (which can be the lawyer’s, the client’s or even the bank’s) which scammers are monitoring to uncover pending transactions requiring an outlay of funds - 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 will send wire instructions to the party holding the funds requiring that the funds be sent to the hackers’ account. 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 similar, but 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 that funds be transferred by wire when the original agreement was to pay by check.
To help prevent clients from falling victim to one of these scams, lawyers should educate clients about wire fraud scams and consider using warnings in their email signature lines such as:
WARNING - FRAUD ALERT: Hackers are targeting the e-mail of parties involved with real estate transactions, business transactions and settlements in attempts to distribute fraudulent wire instructions. If you receive an e-mail appearing to be from our office requesting that you wire, or transfer funds, confirm all wiring instructions by phone directly with our office before transferring funds. Be certain you are speaking with someone from our office when confirming wire instructions. VERIFY OUR TELEPHONE NUMBER FROM A SOURCE OTHER THAN THE PHONE NUMBER ACCOMPANYING THE E-MAILED WIRE INSTRUCTIONS.
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