17 November 2016
Emails have been sent which fraudulently claim to be from "Benjamin Elliott", "Rhoda Elliott" or "Benjamin Andrews" at Windeatts Solicitors.
What is the scam?
The SRA has been informed that emails have been sent which fraudulently claim to be from "Benjamin Elliott", "Rhoda Elliott" or "Benjamin Andrews" at Windeatts Solicitors. The emails claim to attach a "sale and purchase agreement".
The SRA has seen or been advised of similar emails being sent from:
- "Benjamin Elliott" using the email addresses "firstname.lastname@example.org" or "email@example.com" or "doublebright200:@gmail.com"
- "Rhoda Elliott" using the email address "firstname.lastname@example.org"
- "Benjamin Andrews" using the email addresses "email@example.com" or "firstname.lastname@example.org"
The fraudulent emails provide the genuine office addresses, SRA ID and a list of genuine partners for a genuine firm (see below). However, the emails provide contact numbers of 01803 864477 (telephone) and 01803 863967 (fax) for the Totnes office, and 01548 856580 (telephone) and 01548 856746 (fax) for the Kingsbridge office, none of which are genuine.
The SRA does not authorise or regulate any person with the name Rhoda Elliott and any business or transactions through the email addresses or contact numbers set out above are not undertaken by a solicitor's practice or an individual authorised and regulated by the SRA.
10 January 2017
The SRA has received information that in addition to the email addresses referred to within this alert, the email address of "email@example.com" is also being used.
The genuine firm has confirmed that it has no connection to the email address of "firstname.lastname@example.org" and has confirmed that no genuine emails from the firm are sent from a generic "gmail.com" style email address.
21 December 2016
The SRA has been advised that emails are still being sent but they are now using the name "Virginia Elliott". The email seen by the SRA was sent from the email address "email@example.com".
These emails state the genuine fax numbers for the firm's offices but also provide the following telephone numbers: 01803 863377; 01803 864422; 01548 853838, none of which are genuine.
Virginia Elliott is a genuine solicitor who is employed at the genuine firm of Windeatts. She is not connected to the fraudulent emails referred to in this alert and update.
Is there a genuine firm or person?
Windeatts (which trades as Windeatts Solicitors) is a genuine firm which is authorised and regulated by the SRA. The genuine firm does have offices at 19 High Street, Totnes TQ9 5NW and 48 Fore Street, Kingsbridge TQ7 1PE.
The genuine firm has different telephone and fax numbers to those used in the fraudulent emails.
The SRA does authorise and regulate persons with the name Benjamin Elliott and Benjamin Andrews but neither work at the genuine firm of Windeatts.
Windeatts, Benjamin Elliott and Benjamin Andrews have all confirmed that they do not have any connection with the fraudulent emails referred to in the above alert.
The firm has posted a warning about hoax communications on its website.
What should I do?
When a firm's or individual's identity has been copied exactly (or cloned), due diligence is necessary. If you receive correspondence claiming to be from the above firm(s) or individual(s), or information of a similar nature to that described, you should conduct your own due diligence by checking the authenticity of the correspondence by contacting the law firm directly by reliable and established means. You can contact the SRA to find out if individuals or firms are regulated and authorised by the SRA and verify an individual's or firm's practising details. Other verification methods, such as checking public records (e.g. telephone directories and company records) may be required in other circumstances.
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