Losses by British lawyers tricked into transferring funds to cybercriminals have jumped by 40 per cent in a year, accountants have warned.
The amount of money, often belonging to clients, lost to cyberfraud in the six months to April 2016 totalled £2.53 million, up from £1.81 million in the same period a year earlier. The criminals will typically gain access to a client’s email account, often through a phishing attack, and then contact an employee at the law firm asking them to transfer funds to a bank account. It is then withdrawn from the fraudulent account almost immediately, making it virtually impossible to trace or recover.
The mounting scale of the losses is analysed in a survey today by Hazlewoods, chartered accountants who specialise in the legal profession.
They say that firms dealing frequently with large transfers of funds, such as those handling probate cases and conveyancing, are a particular target.
While losses are still relatively modest, they can still be enough to force the closure of some of the smaller law firms.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority takes a hard line on companies that fall victim to cyberfraud and they are expected to replace stolen money from their own funds, without waiting to be reimbursed by insurers.
Barry Vitou, at Pinsent Masons, said: “These figures are concerning. Often the fraud simply involves an email requesting funds be sent to a new bank account . . . A simple call from a partner to their client to confirm the new details would prevent the fraud.”