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“Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing” (Aesop’s Fables)
Cybercrime levels are surging, and it didn’t take the scammers long to figure out that when you buy and sell property you become a prime target because of course –
Consider this nightmare scenario
You’ve sold your property for R5m, transfer to the buyer has been registered but the money doesn’t show up in your bank account (let’s call it “account A”). You phone your conveyancer only to be told “but we did pay you, we followed your instruction to pay into account B.” Of course account B was set up by a scamster and your R5m is long gone. What happened?
How the scams work
Cyber criminals are resourceful and creative so this is by no means an exhaustive list of your risk areas, but currently the two main ones seem to be –
The false account details might be in the email itself or in a falsified attachment – nothing is safe. The email may be in the form of a “we’ve changed our banking details” notification, or the criminal may work on the basis that you just won’t notice the change. And of course account C isn’t the conveyancer’s trust account at all, and the minute you make a payment into it your money is – once again – gone forever.
How can I protect myself?
The problem normally starts with criminal interception of emails or hacking of online data and what follows is a classic case of a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” deception.
Here’s your essential checklist to minimise the risk –
A final thought – are you the weakest link?
As a client it’s no use relying on your attorneys to have all the latest security systems and procedures in place. Think of how banks enforce stringent security protocols and protections, yet still their customers are regularly scammed. If your own computer, network or actions are the weakest link in the chain, then that’s what the criminals will exploit!
Follow the above tips to protect yourself and if you ever have even the slightest doubt about anything, take no chances and contact your attorney to check!