What Can Owners Do If A Law Firm’s Identity Has Been Cloned

What Can Owners Do If A Law Firm’s Identity Has Been Cloned?

On 11th March 2022 the Solicitors Regulation Authority published a warning which alerted legal professionals to a law firm internet website which was seemingly purporting to be owned by law firm Marvin & Pavel Associates.

Is This A Legitimate Website Or Is It Merely An Elaborate Con-trick?

The Solicitors Regulation Authority confirmed that it had thoroughly investigated the whole situation and its findings were extraordinary. It discovered that the contact information and registered addresses of the firm related to a legitimate SRA regulated law firm entitled ‘Stephen Scown LLP’.

The Regulator made clear that there was no correlative evidence of a Law Firm known as ‘Marvin & Pavel Associates’ trading at the address shown on the website. Neither was a firm with this name recognised as one regulated by the SRA.

Further on in its investigation the Regulator sought more information about who lay behind this purported law firm. It sought evidence of fake profiles and discovered dummy profiles on the website of persons supposedly connected with the ‘firm’ seemingly in a blatant attempt to add legitimacy to the sham website. The persons who had established the website appeared to have lifted ‘stock photographs’ appeared on some unrelated websites and audaciously appeared to pass them off as their own associates. The regulator then examined the website for any contact information appearing on there and found evidence of a contact email address and an apparently Portugal based telephone number.

So Was This A Real Law Firm Or Not?

When the Solicitors Regulation Authority assessed the evidence in front of it they were seemingly unsurprisingly seething with what they had uncovered. It found that the building purported to be used as a law firm by phantom law firm ‘Marvin Pavel Associates’ and as shown on the dubious website was in actual fact used by a firm named ‘Stephen Scown LLP. When the SRA made contact with the genuine firm they took further instructions and confirmed that Stephen Scown LLP were absolutely unaware of the website purporting to be owned by ‘Marvin & Pavel Associates’ never mind have any association whatsoever with either the website or the phantom firm.

What Action Have The Solicitors Regulation Authority Taken Here?

The Regulator has issued a public warning to everybody advising them to:

  • steer well clear of this unscrupulous firm.
  • not to visit the web address.
  • not attempt to send any emails to the address recorded on the website.

They SRA also made it very clear that the building purporting to be the business premises is not at all linked to Marvin & Pavel Associates and this phantom firm is not regulated or authorised by the Regulator.

So What Should Other Legal Professionals Do If a Firm’s Identity Has Been Cloned?

In this scenario it would be easy to experience an emotional response including feelings of panic, anger and upset. However, a calm response is required. The Regulator advised all affected parties to follow the below due diligence strategy to make some headway by:

  • communicating with the SRA directly to check the validity of both the collective firm’s or individual lawyer’s practising details.
  • confirm if the purported firm and lawyer is SRA registered and regulated.
  • contacting seemingly legitimate firms and other alleged legal entities by ‘established’ and ‘reliable’ methods to confirm if correspondence has really been sent by these ‘firms’.
  • review public documents such as Companies House, yellow pages and other reputable agencies to independently verify the company details.

Following this strategy as reasonably as possible will go a long way to limiting the damage caused by these unscrupulous parties.

SOURCES USED WHEN WRITING THIS ARTICLE

[1] Solicitors Regulation Authority – Warning: Website claiming to be for a law firm called Marvin & Pavel Associates – 11 March 2022 - SRA | Website claiming to be for a law firm called Marvin & Pavel Associates | Solicitors Regulation Authority

[2] Law Society – Practice Note - Protecting your firm if you fall victim to a scam – 04 May 2020 - Protecting your firm if you fall victim to a scam | The Law Society

[3] Action Fraud - Action Fraud

[4] Beckett, D - How Can I check if a Solicitors Website is Genuine – Beckett&Co Solicitors – 19 May 2019 - How Can I Check if a Solicitor Website is Genuine? (beckettandco.co.uk)

Written By Adam Green

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