Be vigilant for bad cheque scams over long weekend, warns LawPRO

LawPRO is warning lawyers to be vigilant about bad cheque fraud over the long weekend, when fraudsters are known to take advantage of bank closures and off-guard staff at law offices.

LawPRO sees a higher traffic of bad cheque fraud activity when lawyers and their staff are busy preparing for a day off and are less likely to spot a red flag, says Dan Pinnington, LawPRO vice-president of claims prevention and stakeholder relations.

“When the fraudsters are setting up the time for the fake cheque to show up and go through the lawyers’ office, if that happens just before a long weekend, when people are otherwise busy and rushing, there is a better chance that the fraud will go through undetected,” he says.

Fraudsters claiming to be legitimate clients would have a lawyer deposit a fake cheque into a trust account and prompt the lawyer to wire good money elsewhere. They are aided by bank closures over long weekends, which delays detection of bad cheques and gives them a bit more time to get money out of the account, Pinnington says.

“They’re taking advantage of the fact that people are distracted and rushing and busy before a long weekend so maybe they take a little bit less care or rush through to get it done,” he adds.

Lawyers who suspect they have received a fraud email can contact LawPRO or check AvoidAClaim.com for a list of confirmed fraudsters. Since the site started tracking e-mails in January 2011, 45 per cent of alerts were from Ontario lawyers. Another 45 per cent came from the U.S., while five per cent came from the rest of Canada and another five from outside North America.

Last month saw a high traffic of e-mails from the U.S., LawPRO also notes. The most common type of fraud e-mails in April was debt collection scams, followed by business loan collection scam. The lastest fraud posted on AvoidAClaim today comes from lawyers D.C and Connecticut who says they’ve been contacted by the purported Seina Bloomberg with regards to a to a collaborative family law agreement dispute. “This is a fraud we have seen before under several other names and similar scenarios,” says the blog entry.

“These frauds are getting are more realistic, looking more sophisticated,” Pinnington says. “Lawyers need to watch out for the red flags. If there’s anything that doesn’t add up, they should ask questions and dig dipper.”

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