Singapore's Law Society warns of fraudsters targeting law firms

[SINGAPORE] The Law Society (LawSoc) has warned of fraudsters targeting law firms in a scheme to steal funds through online transfers away from the intended recipients.

Citing two cases recently, it urged clients to check with their legal firms before acting on payment requests online.

"The Law Society has recently received a number of reports from law practices relating to fraudsters attempting to divert funds from the proper recipient," said a spokesperson Wednesday.

In one instance, the law firm was instructed by the client company to credit a mortgage loan to the client company's account maintained at a local bank.

The law practice then informed the crediting bank to transfer the money to the designated account but on the following day it received a fraudulent e-mail. The second e-mail said the client company wanted to change its instructions and asked to credit the mortgage loan into a foreign bank account instead.

The law practice called the client company to verify the second set of instructions. The company denied sending the second e-mail. No money was transferred to the foreign bank account.

In another case, fraudsters impersonated the law practice's lawyers. They sought payment from clients through an e-mail purportedly from a lawyer in the practice.

"The change in domain name is imperceptible at first glance. The criminals are purchasing domain names very similar to the domain names of law firms to pass off as the actual law firms," said LawSoc.

It added that fraudsters in other cases had amended invoices issued by a law practice, changed the payee details to an account other than its bank account and subsequently harassed clients for payment.

"The forged invoice looked identical to the legitimate one because it bears the law practice's name," said LawSoc, which urged everyone to stay alert.

"Always check with your lawyer if you receive an e-mail requesting for funds transfer or payment (by whatever mode) before taking any action. This is best done by a phone call.

"Always check with your lawyer if you receive instructions on funds transfers that deviate from your last communication with your lawyer, before taking any action."

The spokesperson said that some of the law practices targeted had made police reports and had advised their affected clients to do the same.

In February, LawSoc warned the public of scammers who posed as senior lawyers to trick members of the public into giving them money or their e-mail account details.