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requirements of protection, especially for small firms and solo practitioners. However, it is these same small firms that can be hit the hardest and lack the ability to recover if a fraudulent ACH charge goes through and wipes out the entirety of the IOLTA or operating account. Most banks are easily accessible online. In addition, most allow you to group your accounts so that you can view your operating account and IOLTA account under the same business username and password. Logging in daily and taking five minutes in the morning or evening to briefly look over the day’s transactions for both accounts can ultimately make the difference in protecting your livelihood and your client’s money.

• Segregating payment and bookkeeping duties can add another level of security. Tis would mean having one individual/employee issue payments for your firm’s expenses and disbursements and then have a separate individual record the transactions and balance the accounts against the bank statements and daily online account activity. For many firms this is not a realistic option because they are simply too small. However, if you are a firm that has the resources and ability to implement this measure, an internal system of checks and balances within your business can reduce your fraud exposure.

Establish clear check acceptance policies for clients. Tis policy should include delineation of acceptable forms of identification from your clients and dollar amount limits for checks from clients. Make sure to train your staff to carefully examine identification presented by clients and comply with the limitations on these transactions.

• If your firm prints its own checks as opposed to using the bank issued checks, make sure to carefully evaluate your check printing technology. Law firms still using pre-printed check stock with a dot matrix printer are at greater risk for check fraud. Laser printers that print on blank check stock offer greater security.

• Contact your bank and talk to them about what fraud prevention products are available to you and your firm that can help you reduce your firm’s exposure.

In addition,

periodically review federal and state law enforcement websites to keep up to date on the newest innovations in fraudulent activity. Perpetrators of fraud understand these tools are available to potential victims and as such, they periodically refine and update their schemes so as to present less of the characteristics law enforcement has identified as signs of fraudulent activity. Reviewing these sites will allow you and your firm to stay up to date with the most recent refinements and allow you to avoid being the next victim.


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• Check with your firm’s bank and see if they offer any “positive pay” services. Tese types of services allow a customer to provide the bank with information on all checks issued, including the dollar amount, check number and payee of each check. Te bank then monitors all checks presented, to make sure the information matches the checks issued by the business. “Suspicious” checks are reported back to the customer before being paid. Tis could be an option that is particularly suited to the smaller practice that does not have the resources to devote to account monitoring.

• Similar services are available for ACH monitoring. Customers can set up “allowable ACH debits” that are permitted based on your approved vendors and dollar amounts. Te customer can then instruct the bank to block all ACH debits that don’t match with the pre- approved vendor list and dollar amounts.

Once again,

this is an option that could be ideal for the small or solo practitioner who does not have the time or resources to monitor his or her operating and IOLTA accounts daily, throughout the year.

Also ask your banks about what products are available to help you and your firm protect against internal fraud including options to segregate different functions of your accounts.

Trial Reporter / Winter 2012 29

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