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Using a safe list in 2015

5th August 2015

The last couple of years have seen a steep rise in the number of alerts relating to bogus firms in the conveyancing sector. Previously established methods of firm identification such as the Law Society’s “Find a Solicitor” have been acknowledged to be inconclusive as the fraudsters continue to stay a step ahead. So what should your firm be doing to mitigate this risk in 2015?

The SRA have provided guidance here: http://www.sra.org.uk/risk/resources/risks-associated-bogus-firms.page. As part of this process ETSOS advocate the use of Lawyer Checker. Launched in 2012, its database will determine, using a firm’s bank details, whether the account you have searched against has a track record of successful use within conveyancing. The search has been widely adopted by a wide variety of firms, from significant market players, to traditional high street firms and sole practitioners.

The application varies; some firms have adopted a blanket policy, using Lawyer Checker on every transaction and passing on the cost as a disbursement. Others who use it ad-hoc against firms they have not dealt with before and/or do not recognise.

One comment we often hear from firms is the use of it when dealing with someone on the other side well known to the firm; in such circumstances they argue it is not necessary to undertake a check, instead they rely on a “safe list” or in some cases, their own knowledge. A “safe list” includes information (including bank details) relating to firms you have frequent dealings with. When settling final accounts the list can be used to verify the identity of the firm to which you send the monies.

But how secure is your safe list is:

  • Who has access to it?
  • Is it easy to falsify?
  • Could someone contact you purporting to be from a firm on your safe list and change the bank details fraudulently?

A fraud only need happen once in order to have a significant impact on your practice; increase in PII, revoking of CQS accreditation, removal from lender panels. The highest loss to date is over £700,000… what impact would this have on your firm?

If a blanket policy is not the route you wish to take, use Lawyer Checker to risk manage a safe list. Commit to reviewing your safe list periodically and undertake an Account & Entity Check to ensure you remain diligent to the threat, and document the results. This demonstrates an increased commitment to tackling the risk.

For firms who do not have a safe list policy contact David Opie to be sent our practical guidance on building and proactively maintaining a safe list for use within your conveyancing department.

To order Lawyer Checker through ETSOS please contact David Opie on 01524 220001/email davidopie@etsos.co.uk or speak to your account manager.


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