We all know that fraud and identity theft are on the increase. Fraudsters are employing ever more sophisticated methods to exploit the unwitting public and are now seeking to dupe people by impersonating solicitors firms.

The problem is so bad that the Law Society has recently issued a practice direction warning lawyers to take particular care when dealing with legal practices who are unknown to them.

One of the latest cases to hit the headlines concerns a practice known as “Orient Solicitors” of Leicester. We are currently dealing with clients who have lost significant sums through bogus conveyancing transactions in which “Orient Solicitors” have been involved.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (“SRA”) has investigated “Orient Solicitors” and concluded that the firm “appears not to be a legitimate solicitors’ practice”. The SRA believe that the identity of a genuine solicitor may have been used without his knowledge and warns that money should not be sent to the firm.

In the meantime, a Google search shows that the “Orient Solicitors” website is still live. The site is attractive, professional designed and very convincing. Most non-lawyers who look at the site will be entirely taken in by it as it gives every impression of representing a genuine firm of solicitors offering its prospective clients a:-

“… doorway to high quality but cost effective legal services for private individuals and the business community”.

The “Orient Solicitors” website also states that the practice is “regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority”.

Solicitors are clearly going to have to be on their guard against the rise of bogus firms and further guidance from the Law Society and the SRA will be welcomed by the profession. In the meantime, the best advice we can give clients is to do their homework and check out a solicitor’s credentials before instructing them. Clients should not be fooled by the veneer of a glossy website. Look behind the marketing jargon and the offer of high quality services to examine whether the firm has any substance outside the virtual world. There are quite often clues to be found such as contact addresses in residential areas or main telephone contact numbers that are merely mobile numbers. If you look carefully, the warning signs should be there and if anyone is in any doubt then they should contact the SRA for verification.

If you have been the victim of a bogus solicitors scam and wish to seek compensation then contact partner Lee Dawkins on 01392 423000 or email him at lee.dawkins@sleeblackwell.co.uk