Allison here, with AllClear ID. We’ve previously discussed how identity thieves are stealing personal information to receive medical services, but there’s a new trend of people stealing the personal information of lawyers, posing as lawyers themselves to charge for legal services.

So far, it seems that this problem is only affecting California lawyers and residents, but it could be just a matter of time before other states see an impact. Because California state law releases bar numbers and attorney’s names to the public, this problem finds its home on the west coast – and that’s all someone posing as a lawyer needs in order to scam people out of their money. The thief can place a name and bar number on legal documents in order to appear legitimate to possible victims, and then disappear after collecting the cash.

Lawyers who do have their identities stolen can work with bar administrators to flag files and to send cease-and-desist letters to anyone they find possibly posing under their name. In order to better catch suspicious activity beforehand, lawyers should do online searches for their name and see what’s being said on the internet. If they happen to find out that someone has been using their name, an investigation can then begin. However, there’s not a lot that can be done after the fact.

Those looking for legal services can double check information and ask the right questions in order to protect themselves from being scammed. For starters, working with a law firm is much safer than working with a single lawyer. Make sure that you meet the lawyer through the firm instead of just someone “associated” with a firm. A poser would be able to find out if the person he/she is impersonating is with a firm, and then try to get the victim to work outside of the firm.

There are tons of legitimate lawyers who do practice on their own, so make sure to ask questions about what they practice, and try to stay as informed as possible throughout the process. Many of these posers try to take advantage of those who aren’t aware of what’s going on, or who don’t speak very much English. These lawyers should also have a professional address and phone number, and ought to be meeting with clients in private offices (for client confidentiality) instead of in homes or coffee shops.

Don’t forget to check out our Lawyer Referral Page to gain access to our network of trusted attorney’s in the case that your identity has been stolen.