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The Louisana State Bar Association (LSBA) has issued an alert warning attorneys about a scam targeting lawyers and law firms.
An LSBA member reported being contacted through their firm's website by Fernando Martin, who sought legal services regarding a former employer’s severance package, according to a press release.
The prospective client signed an engagement agreement memorandum and agreed to pay the retainer fee. But the LSBA reports that the attorney became suspicious after the new client requested banking information. Communication was eventually cut off when upon discovering that email originated from a fraudulent domain, according to the LBSA alert.
"From time to time, like anyone else, we are alerted by a member (or two) that they were approached for a potential scam," said Kelly Ponder, communications director with the Louisiana State Bar Association. "When this happens, we put it on our homepage and alert our members so they are aware and to be on guard. We help to make sure people don’t become victims."
Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of Louisiana, which represents some 3,500 professionals, advises purchasing a generic crime insurance policy to cover such scams in the event of a rip-off.
"Crime-related fraud coverage kicks in when a scam artist uses a fraudulent name to access your bank account," said Ed Albright, CEO of Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of Louisiana in Baton Rouge. "If someone hacked into a law firm's website and accessed their bank account, that's considered a cybersecurity criminal act and it would be covered by a cybersecurity policy."
LSBA offers the following preventive tips:
• Don’t trust the display name. Check the email address in the “From” header — if it looks suspicious, it may not be legitimate. Even if an email has convincing branding and language, it does not mean that it is authentic.
• Beware of urgent or threatening language. Invoking a sense of urgency or fear is a common spoofing tactic. If you receive a message asking for urgent financial assistance, you should pause and proceed with caution.
• Call to confirm. If in doubt about an email that appears to be from a legitimate person, call or text the person yourself instead of replying to the message. Do this even if the message says the sender cannot be reached by phone for some reason.
• Warn others. If you find the email is a hoax and comes from someone you know personally, immediately contact the original sender to let him or her know. Suggest that the sender send an email to this effect.
• Do not respond. If you receive phishing email, do not respond. Responding to emails like this confirms your email account as an active one and can result in you getting more spam.
• Do not accept facts as face value without more research and due diligence as to the people and matters involved.
• Beware of clients you have never personally met or clients who need immediate transfer of funds. Don’t be tempted by receipt of an overpayment of an advance deposit or a fee that appears “too good to be true.”
• Exercise caution and perform due diligence before accepting new cases and performing financial transactions involving trust accounts.