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SRA issues bogus solicitor warning

14 May 2013

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), has issued a warning urging consumers buying legal services to be ‘scam aware’ when giving instructions.

Supporting Scams Awareness Month, run by Citizens Advice and Trading Standards, the SRA wants to help to ensure that warnings about bogus solicitors who clone genuine firms to obtain money by deception do not go unheeded.

The SRA, whihc is the body that regulates solicitors and providers of legal services in England and Wales, says that it has seen an increase in this new trend over the past two years and has set up regular update alerts on bogus firms on the consumer section of its website.

Consumers should be aware that the scams can take many different forms, including:

  • cold-calls using a bona fide firm’s name which appear to originate in the UK, to try and obtain details from people in relation to claiming back PPI, or to offering to make a Personal Injury claim often where there are no grounds for a claim to be made; and
  • unsolicited emails and letters appearing to be from a bona fide law firm but asking for payment in advance, or an “administration charge”, in return for the release of monies supposedly held by a recognisable bank or government authority.

The SRA say that the key things to watch out for are:

  • a mismatch between the firm’s and individuals’ address and telephone and website details (e.g. a solicitor’s name from a different law firm); or
  • the contact details for the firm are incorrect, relate to a different law firm or are fictitious (e.g. a building number that doesn’t exist on the street quoted, or the street name doesn’t match the post code quoted);
  • a mobile number with no landlines being available;
  • whether the firm is registered at Companies House.

Steve Wilmott, the SRA’s Director of Intelligence and Investigations, said:

“We will take action against anyone holding themselves out as a solicitor which is a criminal offence.

“The offenders however are extremely clever and we are urging both clients of legal services and solicitors’ firms to be on their guard. Quite often firms themselves are not aware that their information is being used to deceive.”

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:

“Through Scams Awareness Month we are helping people to protect themselves from scammers and urging anyone who spots a scam to report it. You can get advice about scams from our consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06, your local CAB or on adviceguide.org.uk.”

The SRA offers advice to consumers to check whether solicitors are genuine or not by taking note of the points above and use appropriate sources to check whether the individual is registered with the Law Society at Find a Solicitor or use the Check a Solicitors Record facility on the SRA’s website where regulatory decisions are published.

Anyone suspecting malpractice should contact the SRA either by telephoning 0870 606 2555 or email report@sra.org.uk.

If you have any concerns over the topics raised in this article you can contact us directly today, or find more information in our SRA service page.

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