On 18 February 2015 my firm’s computer system was one of the several operated by customers of Lloyds Bank plc that was targeted by fraudsters; one customer losing £200,000 from what I was informed.
The attempt was carefully planned and evaded sophisticated antivirus software. As soon as the problem was detected, I contacted the intelligence unit of the Solicitors Regulation Authority and local firms.
At 16.29pm on 20 February 2015 I received an email from the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme warning me of the potential problem with Lloyds Bank and urging vigilance.
An email message sent by the Council of Licensed Conveyancers marked Fraud Alert was sent at 9.00am on 18 February 2015 warning of problems with Lloyds Bank.
I ask why licensed conveyancers appear to have an effective warning system when solicitors do not. This apparent failure damages the solicitors’ reputation from financial reliability, causes unnecessary difficulties to conveyancing firms and raises the prospect of additional claims on the compensation fund.
Is there any reason to prevent the Law Society from informing the profession by sending an immediate email alert to CQS members? It is unacceptable to delay for almost three working days before acting.
Andrew R E Kerr, solicitor and mediator, England Kerr Hands and Co, Harborne, Birmingham
The Law Society responded: ‘The Law Society and SRA take fraud seriously.
‘The SRA issued a release on this scam on 27 November 2014, which was covered by the Gazette. Following an alert from the Council of Licensed Conveyancers on 18 February, the Law Society used the next edition of Professional Update on 19 February to warn members that the fraud was still taking place. A further reminder was also sent specifically to those members who receive CQS alerts.
‘As well as alerting members to widely used scams, the Law Society works with the UK Finance Intelligence Unit at the National Crime Agency to disseminate information about specific frauds targeting solicitor firms. This information is shared on a confidential basis with solicitors who have identified themselves as anti-money laundering officers in their firms.
‘The Law Society provides free online cybersecurity training to lawyers and we recommend firms consider applying a range of cybersecurity measures including joining the Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership and following GCHQ’s “Ten Steps to Cyber Security”.’