In January, the State Bar of Texas introduced its Identity Fraud Flag Program, which seeks to assist attorneys who have been victims of identity fraud and protect them from scammers potentially attempting to impersonate them. The program gives lawyers a way to voluntarily report to the bar that they have been the victim of identity fraud and acts as a safeguard for the bar to protect both its members and the public.
State Bar of Texas Membership Director Karen Rebernak, who oversees the program, said many attorneys don’t provide any public contact information on their Find a Lawyer profile, which is available at texasbar.com. She said a lack of information can make it difficult to confirm an attorney’s identity, and this is a major factor in several of the identity fraud cases she sees.
Since the program was launched, nine Texas attorneys have requested an identity fraud flag be placed on their online profiles, according to Rebernak. There are six additional known identity fraud cases, and the State Bar is attempting to reach out to those attorneys.
The State Bar does not disclose email addresses or personal contact information to the public. But attorneys who provide public contact information to the bar can help other bar members or members of the public contact them more easily and securely. Rebernak said an effective way of doing this is to enable the ‘email now’ function within the attorney’s State Bar online profile.
“We have found that fraudsters often impersonate attorneys who have no public contact information on their online profiles,” said Rebernak. “If an attorney provides an office address or phone number, that information will be displayed on their online profile for public viewing. I recommend that attorneys provide an office phone number and/or enable the ‘email now’ link, so members of the public can contact them through the State Bar website. To enable the ‘email now’ feature, attorneys can log on to their My Bar Page and then click ‘Edit Directory Options.’ If an attorney does not wish to display their phone number on their online profile, I recommend setting up an online phone number, such as a Google phone number or a Skype phone number, for this purpose.”
For more information about this program, contact Karen Rebernak at firstname.lastname@example.org.