President of the Law Society of South Australia Amy Nikolovski said the website claims to be that of a South Australian law firm, with members of the public receiving emails setting out instructions for the recipient to follow in order to claim an inheritance from a deceased relative.
According to Ms Nikolovski, the email requests that the recipient send personal information about themselves to begin the process, and “attaches a fake fund release application form”.
“It also provides a link to a website which looks like a professional law firm’s website, but is completely bogus,” the SA Law Society president said.
“Of particular concern is that the website includes images and biographies of real South Australian lawyers.”
Ms Nikolovski noted that while the scam email contained suspicious language suggesting its illegitimacy, “a recipient not familiar with legalese may not detect the red flags and may simply accept that this was how legal correspondence looked”.
“A clear red flag is lack of specific detail,” Ms Nikolovski said.
“In this particular case, the recipients are told they can receive an inheritance of a deceased relative, but the actual identity of the supposed rich relative is not disclosed in the email.
“The letter also contains instructions for the recipient to follow. This is not how a lawyer-client relationship works. It is the client who instructs the lawyer following the provision of advice by the lawyer.
“The letter promises a reward if instructions are followed. Always be wary of unsolicited messages that promise rewards.
“The email addresses contained within the correspondence are all fraudulent. People should only respond to emails or click on any links if they are sure of the veracity of the email. If in doubt, call before you click.”
My Business's sister publication Lawyers Weekly was provided a redacted copy of the scam email, which has been published below.
It follows last week’s warnings from two consumer watchdogs that consumers from around Australia have been targeted by fake Facebook profiles claiming to sell mobile phones at a discount — using the identities of legitimate businesses as cover.
An initial alert was issued by WA’s Consumer Protection agency, but the ACCC told My Business that it was aware of identical scams targeting east-coast residents, with losses on phone-related scams exceeding $50,000 to date.
The fake law firm email:
"I wish to acknowledge the receipt of your message in response to my proposal. It is a 100% legal and legitimate proposal sent by I, _____________ the Principal lawyer of this law firm.
I would like you to understand that I am a man of social status, therefore, I will not involve myself in a transaction of this nature and magnitude if I have not done my assignment thoroughly. I have been working as an advocate for a very long time and I do understand the modalities associated with law ethics.
I contacted you for the mutual benefit between me and you; An opportunity such as this does not come all the time but when it does, it is with all pleasure that it is being embraced by whoever the opportunity is opened to, therefore one thing that is paramount in transactions like this is “TRUST and “TRANSPARENCY”.
Before we can proceed further I will like you to understand that this transaction can be successful only if we work together and as such you are to adhere strictly to my instructions as all instructions that I will be giving to you subsequently will be in accordance/compliance with the laws/laid down rules to apply for the deceased's fund as the Next of Kin, In proceeding further, I want you to assure me that you will be honest during the transaction and as soon as the funds are transferred to you by the bank, we would share the money EQUALLY and PEACEFULLY either by meeting in person or through bank to bank transfers. My personal instinct directed me to contact you and I sincerely hope it was not a wrong thing to do.
I shall direct you on the process to having the funds released; we shall start by sending a formal application to my Bank for the release of the said fund as the Next of Kin to the deceased. Find in the attached I am sending you an application letter for which you are to send to the bank.
Thereafter the bank will request from you the relevant backup documents to your claim according to the demand of our probate law for the transfer of funds. Once you have provided the Bank with the required documents, they would be under legal obligation to transfer the funds to a designated account which will be provided by you. Upon this laid-down structure, there will be no form of Risk or illegality in carrying out this proposal.
It is important we have a mutual understanding because I know we will surely enjoy the benefits of this in no distant time."