Ricochet News

Cybercriminals now targeting property transactions - how to avoid becoming a victim

By Bardine Hall (BA LLB) - Jan 31, 2017

There has been an increase in reports of email hacking scams involving the theft of money intended to be paid as the purchase price of property, transfer costs and fees.

In most of the incidents reported, the hackers gained access to the email accounts of the seller, purchaser or the conveyancing attorneys. The hackers use the email addresses of these parties to communicate fraudulent banking details. Parties are usually unsuspecting as they expect the emails and the emails form part of an existing chain of correspondence.  

The unsuspecting victim ends up paying the fraudster instead of the intended recipient. Life savings can be lost through these scams as the fraudulent accounts are usually cleared by the time that the crime is discovered.

The common thread in these cases, as recently reported by the Guardian, is that they involve email correspondence requesting payment and the sharing of banking details via email. To avoid falling victim to these scams experts recommend the following measures[1]:

  1. Before making a payment, request the contact person that you have been dealing with at the business or firm of attorneys to confirm the amount and their banking details telephonically or to provide you with other proof of their banking details;
  2. Treat any email notification of a change of banking details with suspicion. Rather obtain telephonic confirmation or confirmation in person of the change in banking details.
  3. Cooperate with your attorney when proof of your banking details are required in the form of an original bank statement or cancelled cheque.
  4. A small sum can be paid first before paying a large sum in order to check that the intended party received the payment.

Parties to conveyancing transactions should take note of these warnings regarding the significant risk posed by cyberfraud affecting email accounts and be vigilant in their dealings.

At Goldberg & de Villiers Inc, the Directors in our Property Law Department, namely Adri Ludorf, Tracey Watson-Gill and Nicolas Mitchell, assisted by Bardine Hall and a  team of highly-qualified paralegals, will gladly assist you with any of your Property Law-related needs.

[1] The Guardian, Saturday 14 January 2017, www.the guardian.com “ I thougt I’d bought my first home, but I lost £67,000 in a conveyancing scam” https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/jan/14/lost-67000-conveyancing-scam-friday-afternoon-fraud-legal-sector-email-hacker?CMP=fb_gu