Reports continue to be received of the interception of solicitors’ cheques and their subsequent presentation at the solicitor’s banks but with the details of the payee having been altered. It is not clear whether it is the original document which has been altered or whether a new document has been created from the original document but, in either case, we are assured that the document which is presented is a near perfect replica of the original. One has to think for a moment or two in order to appreciate the ramifications of this in our accounts if the cheque is then duly “honoured” in favour of the fraudulent payee. The only defensive measures we can think of at this stage are to make all mortgage redemption and other substantial payments wherever possible by electronic transfer and to arrange for the personal collection/delivery rather than postal transmission of other cheques. Of course, if a perfect replica of the cheque can be made but with altered payee details then it is likely that the amount of the cheque can similarly be altered and the same security is perhaps required for all cheques, no matter what the value.
One interesting point that emerges is that all the cases reported so far relate to cheques made payable in favour of the same, institutional payee. Any solicitor who is affected by circumstances like this is therefore invited to report the matter – primarily to the police, of course, - but also to this page, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org so that any pattern can be observed and early warning can be given to the profession so that we are best able to take measures to protect clients’ funds.