Practitioners have been warned not to respond to an email purporting to come from a property developer looking to change its conveyancing firm. The email, signed by ‘Lorna Fullerton’ carries the logo of Argee Building Services, stolen from a bona fide small Glasgow business of that name. The company said it had alerted the authorities to the misuse after being ‘inundated with calls’ yesterday. 

The email, apparently sent to a database of law firm email addresses, opens:  'We are property development and management company' (sic). It goes on to set out details of a property transaction and asks recipients if they can 'get back to me with your quotes, legal fees and contracts to enable you act on our behalf within a proper time frame'.

Cyber security experts said the email seems to be aimed at identifying targets for cyber attack or fraud. Peter Wright, solicitor and managing director of specialist firm Digital Law,  warned: 'It is important that firms do not reply to the email or refer it to another law firm mistaking it for a genuine enquiry.'

He noted that the email is suspect on several fronts. 'A new client would rarely provide as much detail as is set out in this message in a first email making initial contact. The lack of any contact information in the footer is also a giveaway. The domain does not lead to a legitimate website either, particularly given the client is supposed to be engaged in such large scale commercial property transactions.'

Wright, who chairs the Law Society's GDPR working group, said that the email's purpose would be to engage the firm and acquire information: 'either personal data or perhaps more widely it could be designed to undertake surveillance of a firm, to discover its terms, its systems, its staff, its working practices and in turn its weak spots so that it could be targetted by a specific cyber intrusion'. 

He advised practitioners to alert staff that the email is not to be replied to - and on how to spot the warning signs in other incoming emails.