Brand fraud online is increasing and law firms are not immune.
CMO COUNCIL reported that “A global audit of 306 marketers, sponsored by MarkMonitor, a leading provider of solutions for enterprise brand protection, found that trademark trespassing is moving increasingly online, and fraud is becoming more difficult to identify due to the increased sophistication of brand hijackers.”
For quite a while, e-mails have circulated which purport to come from a law firm or in some illegal way use the name of a law firm to perpetuate a fraudulent scheme. A search on Google came up with a myriad of complaints about schemes involving the name of a law firm.
Some of these schemes involve the names of law firms in the US and some involve schemes targeted at US citizens but using the names of law firms in other countries. For instance, a Japanese law firm’s name was used to commit fraud against US citizens. When it was discovered by the law firm, they put up a website page in English with the title “EMAIL FRAUD ALERT” for anyone smart enough to search before getting caught up in the fraud.
It is extremely simple for a criminal to send out e-mails using the name of a law firm with a link using a nearly identical domain name and which points to a counterfeit website which looks identical to the website of the real law firm. This can be accomplished within minutes and once caught and shut down, it can be reestablished within minutes, again.
While it can be next to impossible to stop someone in Nigeria from copying your website and using it to commit fraud, once discovered it is at least possible to put up a page on your website, such as the Japanese law firm did, to alert the public.
It might also be advisable to put up a page, even before any problems are discovered, which advises the public not to take any action or send any money to anyone upon receiving an e-mail which purports to be from your law firm.
What can you do to discover any illegal use of your law firm’s name?
You can use a company to monitor your name and/or brand. A search for “trademark monitoring” or “brand monitoring” should result in a number of companies that charge a fee to alert you of any illegal use.
A very simple and free method is to use Google Alerts. Just be sure to have Google search for a name that is not too common, otherwise you will be inundated with alerts. If the name of your law firm is Smith, Johnson & Williams, don’t search for “Smith”. Search for the entire law firm name which you can put in quotes to ensure that you only receive alerts in which all three names are mentioned.
You can sign up for Google Alerts at http://www.google.com/alerts