Scammers know professionals use websites to advertise their services. Scammers count on consumers not taking the time to confirm if the services are legit — particularly if a service is needed quickly and/or for a pressing personal matter.  Consumers need to take the time or risk losing private personal and financial information.

A current scam involves fake websites for legal services.  The FBI has seen a surge in these types of phony sites — sites that look so real t that it’s hard to tell that it’s scammers, not real lawyers, advertising these services and soliciting cases.  People need to be extremely careful to confirm that these are real attorneys before giving over any personal and/or financial information.

Here’s an example of how careful consumers have to be when looking at legal services websites.  The Better Business Bureau (BBB) published an alert about the latest FBI investigation.  This investigation is in Texas where scammers created a fake website for legal services using the maiden name, former office address and parts of the professional bio of an attorney who had been retired for many years (see FBI’s website: http://www.ic3.gov ; “Lawyers’ Identities Being Used for Fake Websites and Solicitations”; and BBB’s website: scam alert@council.bbb.org; “Fake Attorney Website Sparks FBI Investigation”).

Here are tips about steps you should take to help confirm if a legal website is legit:

  1. Contact the local and/or State attorney Bar Association to confirm if such an attorney or firm really exists and is licensed to practice law;
  2. Confirm with the Bar Association that the attorney and/or the firm is still actively practicing law (per the scam using the retired attorney’s information);
  3. Ask to speak with the Bar Association’s staff that handles complaints to learn if complaints have been filed about the attorney and/or the firm;
  4. Check the FBI’s website (www.ic3.gov) for updates about new investigations and/or variations on this type of scam;
  5. Do NOT provide any personal and/or financial information before confirming the legitimacy of the attorney and/or law firm;
  6. Do NOT pay any money  online or in person (for initial consultation and/or as a retainer) before confirming the legitimacy of the attorney and/or law firm;
  7. Do NOT assume the attorney or firm is legit if you call the listed phone number and someone answers; this could be one of the scammers.

Do contact the FBI at their website if you have, or think you have, been a victim of a phony legal website — whether as a consumer or an attorney.