Law Society warns of scams involving bogus law firms and lawyer impersonation

The Law Society said there were seven cases of scams relating to law firms or lawyers in the past three years. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - Scammers have taken to setting up bogus law firms, impersonating lawyers and using phishing attacks purportedly from law firms' e-mail addresses to dupe members of the public into giving them money.

The number of such scams here - as well as their sophistication - has grown as more Singaporeans transact online, said Mr Gregory Vijayendran, president of the Law Society of Singapore, during a virtual press conference on Friday (May 28).

The Law Society said there were seven cases of scams relating to law firms or lawyers in the past three years.

In one instance, scammers set up a fake law firm named "Goh Keng Law Firm".

Using photographs of real lawyers, they created false lawyer profiles on the bogus firm's website.

The fraudsters also copied client reviews taken from other law practices onto the website to bolster the impression that it was legitimate.

Would-be clients of the bogus law firm were told to pay commitment fees before it would take up their cases.

Ghows, a law firm acting for the Law Society, sent a takedown notice to the company hosting the website on May 17.

But the website is still up, even though the company - which is based in the United States - had acknowledged its receipt of the notice, said Mr Bryan Ghows of the law firm. He added that his firm has been contacting the company on this issue.

The Straits Times was able to find the website online but could not access it on Internet browsers such as Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome.

In another case, scammers set up a website purportedly representing the international network of a Singapore law firm.

The website - which is no longer accessible - added the name of a Chinese city into the law firm's name.

Mr Vijayendran said the bogus website "wrongfully and fraudulently replicated or purported to replicate the entire content" of the real law firm's website, including photographs and profiles of its lawyers.

All references to Singapore in the original content were replaced with the name of the Chinese city, he added.

Other scams included one where scammers sent a fraudulent e-mail to a law firm, stating that the firm's client company wanted to change the payment instructions relating to a mortgage loan.

The e-mail included a request for the loan to be credited into a foreign bank account, instead of the correct account at a local bank. But the law firm called the client and did not fall for the scam.

The Law Society said it was aware of only one case - in 2019 - in which there was financial loss.

On Friday, Mr Vijayendran urged the public to check the official public directory of lawyers and law firms when verifying their identities, as well as e-mails purportedly from them.

The directory, which is available at the Legal Services Regulatory Authority's website, includes details of law practices that are no longer in operation.

"Check the Law Society's website on examples of online scams and frauds involving law practices," said Mr Vijayendran.

He also said members of the public who have received e-mails seeking payment or transfer of funds should check with their lawyers before paying.

People should also check with their lawyer after receiving any instruction on fund transfer which deviates from the last communication sent by the lawyer, said Mr Vijayendran.

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