How To Detect If a Solicitor Is Not Legitimate
When you choose to work with a solicitor, you’ll need to make sure that they’re someone you can trust, but how can you tell if they are who they say they are?
In the digital age, you run the risk of running into a scam artist on a daily basis. Much of the time, scams are relatively easy to spot, which means you can safely navigate them without putting yourself at risk – but not every scam is as evident as you might think. There are certain situations where you’ll need to take extra precautions to ensure that you’re not being lured into a sophisticated trap.
In recent years, scam artists have been increasingly posing as solicitors in an attempt to extract personal and sensitive information from their unfortunate victims. Instead of getting advice from the family law firm, someone thought they were working with, they instead find themselves losing out to a scammer who has successfully tricked them into giving up their details.
Thankfully, scam solicitors aren’t infallible, which means there are several steps you can take to spot one before it’s too late… Here they are:
1. Use the Law Society’s Search Facility
In the UK, there are various authenticity checks you can carry out before you decide to proceed with instructing a solicitor to help you with a legal matter. Before you even consider picking up the phone or writing out an email to the solicitor who has caught your eye, you should first head to The Law Society’s website to use their search facility.
The Law Society maintains an online directory of practicing lawyers, containing almost all the professionals they regulate.
So, if you’ve found a divorce solicitor who you think has the right expertise to help you, you can check to see whether they’re on the Law Society database. If you can’t find them or the details on the directory don’t add up with what you have on file, this could be a significant red flag.
2. Check Their Solicitor’s Regulation Authority Registration
The Law Society isn’t the only organisation that has a directory of solicitors you can refer to. The Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA) regulates solicitors and law firms in England and Wales, regulating over 20,000 individuals in the legal sector.
They aim to ensure that solicitors meet high standards and act when certain risks are identified. You can check whether the solicitor you want to work with has an SRA roll number, otherwise known as an SRA ID.
If this proves to be difficult for them to do, then you’ll be wise to stop communicating with them immediately. For instance, if someone is advertising themselves as an experienced family law solicitor, but they’re not on a roll, they’re already guilty of committing a criminal offense.
3. Make Sure They Check Your Identification
While you’ll want to check for your solicitor’s identification, it’s essential to make sure that they also check yours. Genuine solicitors are obliged to check potential customers in a face-to-face meeting (this is also done remotely) as a way of combatting money laundering and other forms of fraud.
So, if the solicitor you’re dealing with doesn’t take this step, you would be justified in assuming that they are not who they say they are. You shouldn’t ask why they haven’t asked for your identification. As they may realise, they’ve made a mistake and attempt to backtrack.
4. Be Wary of a Solicitor Who Aggressively Chases Payment
Of course, solicitors need to be paid, and they aren’t just going to let you off the hook if you owe them money. That said, they won’t ever be overly aggressive about chasing payments. They certainly won’t push for immediate payment over the phone or request your payment details via email.
You should never feel pressured into making a payment. Legitimate solicitors and solicitors will often have a fees policy on their website, which clearly sets out how they will chase payments and when you will likely need to pay for their services. Meanwhile, be aware of the ‘No win, no fee solicitors‘.
You should also be wary of a solicitor that goes back on an agreed price before you’ve put across your first payment. If they can’t provide a reasonable enough excuse for changing their fees, then you should keep your wallet firmly closed.
5. Check for Classic Signs of a Scam
Everybody makes mistakes, and scammers are no different. When you’re on the lookout for a scam solicitor, you should always watch for some of the classic signs of a scam that don’t just apply to solicitors.
Poor grammar, unprofessional communication, and suspicious email addresses are typical examples of mistakes scammers make when trying to fleece someone. While, yes, legitimate solicitors will make simple spelling errors from time to time, if you spot systematic and frequent mistakes, you’re likely dealing with a scam solicitor.
Many fraudsters impersonating fake law firms are also hesitant to speak on the phone, especially if they’re posing as someone else entirely. If the female family law solicitor you’re talked to via email is a man in real life, they’d be rumbled in seconds over the phone.
Are You Worried About Falling Victim to a Scam Solicitor?
Sure, scam solicitors are out there in abundance, but, as you can see, there are plenty of simple steps you can take to make sure that you don’t cross paths with one.
As is the case when it comes to dealing with scammers and fraudsters, you should always remind yourself that if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. You have nothing to lose by being extra careful, so take as long as you need to make sure that you are happy with your solicitor.
Do you have any more tips for spotting a scam solicitor? Or do you have a story of your own that you’d like to share? Feel free to leave a comment below!
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