'Fake lawyers' with bogus degrees a problem across Canada
TORONTO -- There is a disturbing epidemic of “fake lawyers” scamming vulnerable Canadians out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, with eight caught in B.C. earlier this month alone.
Lawyer Tanya Walker says that the practice of obtaining fake degrees, law or otherwise, is “quite common” online and worth a billion dollars worldwide.
“The most vulnerable segment of the population [to fake lawyers] are baby boomers, aging people because they may not be in tune as much with technology as the younger generation,” Walker said on CTV’s Your Morning Friday.
Walker said that new immigrants or those wishing to move to Canada are also vulnerable, as there may be a language barrier and may not know how to verify a lawyer’s credentials.
Fake lawyers can do “a lot” of damage, Walker said, as “the judgment is not automatically overturned because you are represented by a fake lawyer, you have to demonstrate that there was a miscarriage of justice.”
If the victim of a fake lawyer is unable to prove a miscarriage of justice, the original judgment can still stand, she said.
Walker said that with real, regulated and licensed lawyers, clients with an issue can report them to the law society and pursue compensation up to $500,000 – or sue the lawyer and pursue a payout from their insurer. None of those options are available with a fake lawyer.
“All a judge does for you when you win is write that you have won [against a fake lawyer], it’s up to you to collect, so if the person does not have any assets… you are out of luck,” Walker said.
Walker said that if you are in need of a lawyer, always verify the lawyer’s credentials, try to visit their office, call the law society and double check their registration number and “be suspicious if they do not have any pictures on their website or it’s too good to be true.”
Lawyers are generally only allowed to accept “around $7,500 in cash” per file, Walker said, so anyone asking for exorbitant amounts like $50,000 should “send up a red flag.”