ACS Law: latest file-sharing threat letters are fake

21 Jul 2011
knotted cable

ACS Law denies accusations of restarting speculative invoicing business overseas

Solicitor Andrew Crossley has denied reports that his now-defunct law firm is sending file-sharing settlement emails to people in Greece.

In the latest odd twist in the ACS Law story, there have been reports of settlement emails being received in Greece using the firm's name.

This is obviously a scam. I am reporting the matter to the police

ACS Law and sole solicitor Crossley sent letters to thousands of alleged illegal file-sharers, demanding settlement payments of £500. The speculative invoicing system fell apart when Crossley finally took 27 accused to court, and has since shut down the firm and declared bankruptcy.

Ralli Solicitors acted for several of the defendants, and last week announced it had privately settled with the now-defunct firm over wasted costs. Now, it is investigating reports that people in Greece received emails in June from someone claiming to act for ACS Law.

The letters demand payment of £1,665 be sent to a London address care of ACS Law, and say the firm is working on behalf of rights firm DigiProtect.

Ralli Solicitors said it was "advising clients" on the letters, but solicitor Michael Forrester said "we may be dealing with an imposter”.

Crossley told PC Pro: "This is obviously a scam. I am reporting the matter to the police...it is not a demand made by me and it is quite clear from the way it was written that it was not."

He said he was "shocked and surprised" that Ralli Solicitors "would be so gullible as to be taken in by such an obviously fake communication as to suggest I was in any way connected with it".

Crossley questioned why the firm would contact the BBC with the story "rather than pick up the phone to ask me directly".

Strange emails

Indeed, the emails are full of oddities that suggest something dodgy is going on. They are sent from a no-reply address on the "acs.com" domain - a web address used by an IT services company in Boston. We asked Ralli Solicitors for a look at the email headers, and the firm said it is looking into the issue.

The emails are not signed off with a name, but direct recipients to send cheques of £1,665 to ACS Law at an address in Hanover Square, London. That address, number 18, used to be home to serviced offices that once housed ACS Law, but has been torn down in order to make way for the new Bond Street Crossrail station. The post code is also inaccurate.

In addition, ACS Law mailed notices on official letterhead; it didn't send emails. As well, the messages in question are full of grammatical errors, a classic sign of phishing emails - with such mistakes not seen in the original ACS letters.

It's unclear exactly what is going on. Former staff of ACS Law did attempt to restart sending settlement letters in January, but they didn't do it under the firm's name, setting up a shell company to accept payments.

We've asked DigiProtect if it has restarted working with ACS Law or is sending any speculative invoicing letters to file-sharers, but have yet to hear back.

Crossley still faces a hearing before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, expected to take place in October, where he stands accused of taking "advantage" of alleged file-sharers.

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