Practice Watch

by Barbara Buchanan, Practice Advisor

Tips for detecting a fake BC driver's licence
Locating lawyers outside of Canada
Fake certified cheques, bank drafts and money orders
Canadian Bar Association BC Branch standard form undertakings
Lawyers' bills for real estate transactions
Land title searches and offence-related property
Change to Court of Appeal Act
Further information

Tips for detecting a fake BC driver's licence

We are lawyers and while we may have good judgment and good instincts, we do not normally have the resources to detect a well-made fake or altered BC driver's licence or BC identity card. We can observe whether a new client acts strangely, a card has expired or appears newer than its issue date. We can also observe whether the signature, picture and description of the person on the card seem to match the signature, face and description of the person in front of us. What else can we look for?

ICBC has built many security features into the driver's licence card, some of which are easy to see and others which are less discernable. Below are some simple tips that may help you to recognize the difference between a genuine driver's licence or identity card and a fake or altered one:

Overall appearance
  • The card should be smooth so beware if there are rough edges or a raised or bumpy surface.
  • All of the print is easy to read.
Front of card
  • The last two digits of the birth year are printed on the front of the card behind a holographic coat of arms containing a buck and a ram.
  • Shuswap Lake is the driver's licence background. A picture of the BC legislature is on the back on the identity card.
  • A whitish line of micro-printing is printed horizontally across the card under the coloured bar at the top.
Back of card
  • Eye colour, hair colour, weight, height, sex and restrictions (e.g. corrective lenses required) are listed.
  • The dark zigzag lines are on a white background.
Locating lawyers outside Canada

If your client is not present in Canada, you must rely on an agent to obtain the information required to verify the identity of the client (Rule 3-97 (5)). While you are not restricted to using a practising lawyer in another country to be the agent, you may decide that it is prudent to use a lawyer in these circumstances.

How do you locate lawyers outside of Canada? Courthouse Libraries BC (formerly known as the BC Courthouse Library Society) has produced a Locating Lawyers Resource Guide.

The guide contains information about provincial, territorial, Canadian and international resources that are available through the Internet or in print.

Fake certified cheques, bank drafts and money orders

The past two issues of Practice Watch (July and October 2008) outlined tips on how to protect yourself from being caught by the phony debt collection scheme, fake certified cheques and other scams. These scams continue to evolve. The Law Society has learned that fraudsters have tried to present fake certified cheques as deposits in real estate transactions (new client from overseas, property purchased sight unseen, no building inspection requested). Stay tuned for new tips in the next Practice Watch on how to protect yourself from being caught by a scam.

Report scams to the RCMP or your municipal police force and also contact the Law Society. You can ask the police to report the matter to PhoneBusters, the Canadian Anti-fraud Call Centre (CAFF) or you can do so yourself (1-888-495-8501). CAFF (a form of partnership between the Ontario Provincial Police, the RCMP and the Competition Bureau) seems particularly interested in receiving information on new versions of the Nigerian letter scheme, especially those with Canadian mailing addresses and telephone numbers.

Canadian Bar Association, BC Branch, standard form undertakings

The Standard Form Contract of Purchase and Sale, in which copyright is held by the Canadian Bar Association, BC Branch and the BC Real Estate Association, is commonly, but not exclusively, used for residential real estate transactions. Clauses 13 and 14 contain undertakings referred to as the "CBA Standard Undertakings" that require the parties to use the undertakings when the buyer is obtaining a mortgage to finance the purchase price or the seller has financial charges to be cleared from title.

Some lawyers are refusing to accept the CBA Standard Undertakings, even though their clients have agreed to them. It is not improper for a lawyer to attempt to renegotiate a contract when the circumstances warrant such renegotiation and when the client instructs the lawyer to do so. However, a lawyer who routinely declines to accept the CBA Standard Undertakings contained in client contracts that were negotiated before the lawyer's involvement in the matter places each client at risk of losing the benefits of the client's contract and may be practising incompetently.

Lawyers' bills for real estate transactions

It has come to the Law Society's attention that some lawyers may be charging unusually low fees but unusually large disbursements for residential conveyances. While such billing practices may be proper in some circumstances, they may be improper if they were designed to avoid tax. Lawyers should be aware that their bills to clients are examined in compliance audits and bill reviews.

Land title searches and offence-related property

Lawyers are advised to carefully review land title searches for important issues arising from charges on title. For example, ex parte orders made pursuant to sections 14 and 14.1 of the Controlled Substances Act may appear as a caveat or an injunction that prohibit disposal or any other dealing with property based on the belief that it is offence-related property (e.g. a marijuana grow operation site). If a lawyer fails to notice the problem and registers the transfer and mortgage documents, by the time the defect notice arrives, the funds will have already been transferred and the lawyer will be facing a claim.

Other registrations on title to look for are judgments, by-law contravention notices and miscellaneous notes that indicate further searching is required.

Review your title searches early enough so that you have time to discuss any issues raised with your client. For more information on title search inadequacies and other causes of claims in real estate, see the March 2004 Alert! "Risk management in real estate conveyancing practice."

Change to Court of Appeal Act

An amendment to section 25 of the Court of Appeal Act is now in force. It requires the registrar of the BC Court of Appeal to place any appeal, or application for leave to appeal, on the inactive appeal list if a notice of hearing has not been filed within two months of filing a certificate of readiness. The parties can reactivate the matter within a six-month period.

Further information

You are welcome to contact Practice Advisor Barbara Buchanan at 604-697-5816 for confidential advice or further information regarding any items in Practice Watch.