Login | February 16, 2019

That you? Fake lawyer websites a new threat

Technology for Lawyers

Published: January 26, 2018

Because new technology is always helpful and never a threat—oh, wait.

Now that a plethora, if not an outright majority, of clients obtain legal counsel after first accessing a lawyer through a website or other internet-enabled connections, greater opportunities for internet-enabled thieves are arising.

So here’s a new-ish scam becoming popular with the criminal set. They clone the website of a real lawyer (that’s you!) and steal your business without you even knowing about it.

The latest reports indicate that scammers steal the code embedded in your website, and then send out feeler emails to potential clients (at this point, concentrating on the elderly). These scams advertise legal services like estate planning or immigrations services using actual lawyers’ names, firm names, etc., using verifiable information. When a target of one of these scams looks up the lawyer, the information seems genuine. So the victim retains the fake lawyer.

Then the retainer gets paid and the either the website disappears, or fake paperwork gets sent out, or other nasty stuff happens.

These scams are particularly difficult to detect. This isn’t a Nigerian prince sending an email filled with grammatical errors. This is a clone website that looks and acts like a real attorney’s website.

How does that happen? All websites will display their code. Just right click on any website and click “inspect.” Voila! And there’s nothing you can do about it.

So monitoring your web activity very closely is the only name of the game here.

First of all, set up a Google alert for yourself, to see if anyone is posting something on Google reviews that could lead you to suspect that your website has been cloned.

You can also hire a computer security firm to continually monitor the web for signs of this and other problems.

And, while we’re at it, there are also apparently a boatload of attorney websites that re-post original blogs from other attorney websites. This not only violates copyright law, but will eventually drive the original content down in the search engine response hierarchy. That’s something else that all firms should be monitoring. It’ll make you feel good to send a cease-and-desist letter, because, you know, just because.