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Solicitors told beware of the clones

Solicitors are being warned to keep a regular watch on their websites in order to foil 'cloning' criminals.

With just minor changes to a solicitor's website - such as an almost unnoticeable change of name or contact details - internet fraudsters are able to attract clients to the bogus sites and trick them into paying money for what look like bona fide services.

Now solicitors' regulator, the Solicitors Regulation Authority, is taking steps to stop the culprits - and calling on local law firms to be vigilant.

The SRA's director of intelligence and investigations Steve Wilmott explained: "We are aware of a small number of firms who have had their company name and website cloned by criminals using their identity as a front to obtain money fraudulently.

"Circumstances have ranged from an almost direct copy of a firm’s name and website, where the contact details have been changed (usually to an address and telephone number abroad), to cases where the name of the firm has been very slightly changed. Sometimes the difference could be just a missing letter or a punctuation mark."

The fake sites are then used to support scams, usually from overseas, where people are asked to send money in advance. The involvement of a 'solicitor' as the address for money to be sent gives credibility to the transaction.

"At the SRA we work closely with the police and other enforcement agencies to root out this type and many other types of fraud, but we also need the help of the firms we are trying to protect.

"It is vital that all firms, no matter how small, are alert to this type of criminal activity as it can damage their credibility and be very difficult to rectify," said Wilmott, who was Head of Economic Crime for the City of London Police.

Consumers are also warned to be on their guard against fake websites and to take extra precautions, such as contacting the firm by telephone or checking with the SRA before parting with any money or financial details.

If you think that a legal website has been cloned or tampered with, you should contact the SRA's Fraud & Confidential Intelligence Bureau (, or the national action fraud hotline at, tel: 0300 123 2040.  

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