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Catching fraudsters: little-known litigation tricks (Part 5) - #youvebeenserved

16 May 2022

Fraudsters don’t tend to publicise their addresses. This can complicate suing them because court proceedings should ordinarily be posted or handed to your opponent, so what can victims do if they don’t know where the fraudster lives? One solution is social media.  

The English court rules state that legal documents must be "served" by certain prescribed methods (eg post, fax or in person).  If you fail to comply with this, your claim could fall over at the first hurdle.  To serve by these methods, you will need to know the address or whereabouts of your opponent, but given that fraudsters will be as elusive as possible, service can be tricky.

Fortunately, the court rules provide some flexibility and permit service by other methods if it is not possible to serve by these more traditional methods.  In various different contexts (not just fraud), the court has allowed service by social media accounts and messaging services.  For example:

  • Twitter: in Blaney v Persons Unknown, the court permitted an injunction to be served via Twitter (containing a link to the relevant documents), where the defendant was unknown but for his Twitter account.
  • Facebook: in Ako Capital LLP v TFS Derivatives, service occurred via Facebook's private messaging platform, where it was demonstrable that the Facebook account belonged to and was actively used by the opponent.
  • Text message: in NPV v QEL, an injunction was served by text message, in circumstances where a person was being contacted and allegedly blackmailed by an anonymous third party via text message.
  • WhatsApp: in Gray v Hurley, a person based abroad was served by WhatsApp.

With the proliferation of social media platforms and messaging apps, there are thankfully more and more ways of serving fraudsters, and the courts are willing to accommodate all modern communication methods.

Other articles in this series:

Contact Darren Kenny and Fergus Kiely for more information. 

Further Reading