What checks can you do to help identify if an individual or law firm (aka `Entity’) is regulated and authentic?
Risks to the public (including scams)
In the digital age, the danger of falling victim to a scam is becoming more prevalent. There are certain situations such as when engaging with a legal service provider, that it is particularly important that you take extra precautions to ensure that you’re not dealing with a scammer posing as a law professional.
There are serious and continuing risks to the public arising from the activities of criminals and criminal gangs who set up fraudulent law firms or bogus branch offices using the details of genuine law firms (also known as `cloning’). This is usually done to enable criminals to carry out a scam with the intention of stealing money, personal information, or data.
It is important that you:
- bear in mind that we do not regulate the people who are perpetrating these frauds and our powers over them are relatively limited
- look out for possible indications that a firm is not genuine and carry out several checks to satisfy yourself that a firm is legitimate.
What to do if you become suspicious that an individual or firm is fraudulent
If you suspect that a firm may not be genuine for any reason, please contact us at email@example.com immediately because some frauds are carried out very quickly.
What might make you suspicious?
Here are examples of checks you can carry out and warning signs to look out for:
- errors in the letterheading — for example, misspelling the name of the town where a firm or office is supposedly based
- different postal or email addresses, or telephone or fax numbers to those usually used by the firm
- hesitancy to speak over the phone or telephone calls to the firm being diverted to a call-back service
- email addresses using generic email accounts, for example, gmail — most law firms have email addresses which include the name of the firm. If in doubt, look at the contact email address on the firm’s website to see if there are differences.
- a firm’s website that does not display CILEx Regulation’s clickable logo—all firms regulated by us should display the CILEx Regulation clickable logo on their website
- a firm suddenly appearing with no obvious connection to the area, probably not interacting with other local firms at all
- a firm appearing to open a branch office a large distance from its head office for no obvious reason
- a firm based in one part of the country supposedly having a bank account in another part of the country — this is a strong indicator
- a client account apparently overseas — this is a breach of rules and is a key red warning
- a strange or suspicious bank account name — such as the account name not being in the name of the law firm you are supposedly dealing with at all. You should see the full name and not some variation of the name.
This is not a full list of suspicious warning signs. If you find one of these examples, it does not mean that you are dealing with a bogus law firm. However, if you see any of these warning signs, or anything else that is suspicious, you should act cautiously and take steps to safeguard your situation. You should take such legal and or professional advice that you consider necessary.
The importance of carrying out checks
It is important to carry out as many of these suggested checks as you can, together with any other checks that are necessary because the list above is not exhaustive. Additional enquiries may be required depending on the circumstances, including seeking legal and or professional advice.
If you become worried about the possibility of a scam, theft, or about the identity of a genuine CILEX Practitioner or CILEX Authorised Firm, first speak to the individual or firm concerned. They should tell you to contact us so that we can help you.
CILEx Regulation – check our directories
You should search our Practitioner Directory to find the details of an individual and search our Firm Directory to check a firm. The Directories allow you to check that the individual or firm are qualified to carry out the work you require. There are sometimes bogus law firms or individuals who will not appear in our directories.
Please note that from 1 January 2022:
- no ACCA member can deliver legal services through a firm authorised by the ACCA.
- ACCA members can:
– deliver probate services alongside their Accountancy firm through a CILEX-ACCA Probate Entity, or
– seek to have a firm regulated as a law firm as a CILEX Authorised Entity or by the Solicitors Regulation Authority or Council of Licensed Conveyancers.
Check the CILEx Regulation ACCA directory
If you become worried about an ACCA member delivering legal services, please speak to the ACCA, or search our CILEX-ACCA Probate Firm Directory to check a firm. However, because of the nature of identity theft, fraudsters may have obtained some form of registration by fraudulent misstatement to us. A directory entry should not be taken as verification that the firm or individual is genuine.
You should look for a CILEx Regulation’s clickable logo on the firm’s website and check it is genuine by clicking on it. However, a clickable logo should not be taken as proof that a website is genuine. A fraudster may have copied a genuine image and displayed the copy on their website.
A CILEX-ACCA Probate firm may display a CILEx Regulation clickable logo on the website of the associated ACCA Accountancy firm. You can check the firm’s details are correct on the CILEX-ACCA Probate Firm Directory.
If you are sending money to a firm, we suggest you send a small amount first and then speak to someone you have been dealing with at the firm to ensure they have received it, before you send the rest of the money.
It is important to remember
- Using a regulated firm gives you additional protections an unregulated firm cannot offer.
- Always be vigilant for warning signs that a firm’s identity may have been stolen.
- Report any suspicions you may have to us immediately via: firstname.lastname@example.org