EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR'S PAGE MARCH 2022
Serving Lawyers, Protecting the Public With Identity Fraud Flag Program
When a lawyer becomes a victim of identity fraud, the consequences can be devastating not only for the lawyer, but also for any member of the public who falls victim to scammers who use that lawyer’s name or identity to fraudulently solicit business.
I am proud to announce the State Bar of Texas’ new identity fraud flag program, which is designed to assist lawyers who have been the victims of identity fraud while informing the public and protecting them from scammers impersonating attorneys.
The new program gives lawyers a way to voluntarily report to the bar that they have been the victim of identity fraud. When a lawyer takes part in the program, the State Bar displays a notice on the lawyer’s public profile page that says: “The State Bar of Texas has been advised that someone has been impersonating [Attorney’s Name]. If you have been contacted by someone claiming to be this attorney or by someone claiming to communicate on this attorney’s behalf and have any reason to doubt the person’s identity, please contact [Attorney’s Name] at [Work Phone Number] to verify that you are in contact with the correct person.”
The notice will remain on the lawyer’s public profile for at least one year unless the lawyer chooses to remove it sooner. The goals of the notice are to reduce the ability of scammers to take advantage of an unsuspecting public and decrease instances of attorney impersonation overall.
A record of the fraud report is also kept on file in the bar’s membership department. The report can be referenced by the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel if a grievance is filed in association with an attorney impersonation case, which will help ensure lawyers aren’t wrongfully accused of misconduct in such cases.
“The past two years of the COVID pandemic have seen an alarming rise in cases of cybersecurity attacks and fraud, including the fraudulent use of Texas attorneys’ identities, which harms unsuspecting attorneys as well as vulnerable members of the public,” said Seana Willing, chief disciplinary counsel for the bar. “The bar’s identity fraud flag program is a proactive response to this growing problem, allowing the State Bar to ensure that more safeguards are in place to help protect its members and the public.”
This new program is just another example of the bar’s ongoing commitment to be responsive to member concerns. The State Bar modeled this new program in part off a similar, successful identity fraud flag program used by the Florida Bar.
To read more about the program and locate a form to participate if you have been the victim of identity fraud, go to texasbar.com/fraudflag.
Executive Director, State Bar of Texas
Editor-in-Chief, Texas Bar Journal
Trey Apffel can be reached at 512-427-1500, email@example.com or @ApffelT on Twitter.