Recent press reports have highlighted a problem for lawyers and conveyancers – it’s been dubbed ‘Friday Fraud’.
It involves fraudsters using various methods to get the information they need to raid a firm’s accounts or intercept funds due to be paid to a client. It’s called Friday Fraud because they know the best time to hit is on a Friday, the busiest time for conveyancing, when employees may be less alert to fraudulent approaches.
Criminals use a combination of methods to collect information. Tactics include; social engineering attacks, where members of staff are tricked into revealing information about their company or their clients and malicious software which allows the harvesting and takeover of emails between firms.
With this information in hand they are ready to attack. Posing as the firm’s bank they may ring up and ask for banking details to be confirmed, even claiming they need the information to prevent fraud. Once they have the bank details need they are in a position to raid the company’s bank accounts.
In another variation they contact firms posing as a client who wants to change the bank account details held on file for them. The fraudsters of course supply details for an account they control and any money paid to that account will be stolen by them.
This type of fraud does not only affect the firms, but also their clients who are often the ones who don’t receive the money when expected. In the case of buying houses this can have drastic consequences.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority revealed by the end of 2014, four firms had collectively had £2m taken from their accounts after falling victim to scams¹. Recent reports have indicated that the problem has only worsened in 2015².
Widespread awareness and understanding is key to preventing Friday Fraud. The more that all members of staff in a practice can be educated the better. Additional checking, for example verifying the ownership of a bank account before paying money into it, can also help prevent this type of fraud.
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