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Conveyancers beware: Fraudsters attempt to steal money from clients of leading firm Osborne Clarke.

6th November 2013

Last week leading law firm Osborne Clarke became the latest victim of a scam that should concern all solicitors, especially those conducting property transactions.

Letters have been sent to clients claiming to be from a partner of the firm and stating that Osborne Clarke has changed its bank account details. The letters request that the clients use the details contained in the letter in the future.

Osborne Clarke has placed a statement on its website that “We have not changed our bank account details and would ask clients who receive such notification to disregard it and speak to their regular contact at the firm or a member of the firm’s accounts department. We have reported this to the relevant authorities, in this case the SRA and Action Fraud.”

The SRA states on its website that “the fake letters set out the firm’s address as One London Wall, London, EC2Y 5EB with the telephone number +44 207 105 7000 and fax number +44 207 105 7005. The fake letters also refer to the address 2 Temple Back East, Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6EG and company registration number 02907465.”

The genuine head office address for the firm is 2 Temple Back East, Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6EG. The firm does have a branch office at One London Wall, London, EC2Y 5EB. The company registration number 02907465 is the registration number for genuine company Osborne Clarke Nominees Limited.

The SRA advises that anyone receiving letters of this nature should conduct their own due diligence by checking the authenticity of such letters or by contacting Osborne Clarke direct by established means.

If necessary the SRA should be contacted to find out whether the firms or individuals are regulated and authorised by the SRA. The website states that “full due diligence is necessary in case the firm’s full identity has been stolen: as well as checking with the SRA, contact with the firm, checking public information (telephone directories, company records, websites) and any other verification possible in the particular circumstances is required.”

Chris Harris, Managing Director of Lawyer Checker said: “We are growing substantially and have had 470 firms use our service in 2013 to check that the account number they are sending money to has a track record of success and is associated with a legitimate law firm. However, there are still many conveyancers who choose to put their heads in the sand and think that there isn’t a risk.

“Unless you know that the account you are about to send money to is associated with the brand it claims to be, how can you be within principle 10 of the Code of Conduct?

“The consequences of sending money to someone you shouldn’t can be far-reaching. Your firm could be removed from lender panels or the CQS, and it could result in litigation against you. Your client is also likely to tell the world.”

For more information about how Lawyer Checker can protect you and your clients from crime please contact David Opie (davidopie@etsos.co.uk/ 01524 220001), sign -up for more information on the form below, or speak to your account manager.

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