The reality is that email phishing and internet fraud have grown in prevalence over recent years, resulting in the loss of millions of rands. These types of scams can take many forms, but a typical example involves the intercepting of emails via a company server and sending fraudulent emails to all clients and customers informing them of a change in company banking details. The intended result is for all payments made by these unsuspecting clients to be made into an account opened and operated by the fraudsters. Due to the nature of the internet, the perpetrators may also be based anywhere in the world, adding a leveling of complication in attempts to apprehend them.
It is best practice for any organisation who is involved in the collection of funds to provide a clear warning to customers that outlines how important information such as bank details will or will not be provided. For example:
“Please note that we will never change our bank details by email notification. Any advice of amended bank details that appear to come from our office should be ignored.”
It is also recommended that any notice of change of banking detail be confirmed personally and supported by an original letter from the relevant banking institution. Additionally, a customer should then immediately alert the relevant company should any such fraudulent looking email be received.
When it comes to a property transaction, buyers and sellers should be wary of any email correspondence requesting bank details without it being discussed with their conveyancer first.
The conveyancer involved in the property transfer will be able to explain the financial requirements to both the buyer and the seller. At first contact with the conveyancer, it is important to discuss the cost implications in the transaction and also the documentation required in terms of FICA so that you are well informed and aware of what to expect.
When signing the transfer documents, clients will be required to sign formal and legally binding documentation in order to facilitate the financial accounting in the transfer. These documents will require banking details and it is important that the parties provide these personally. In this way, both buyers and sellers are less likely to be taken in by an attempted scam.
Should you fall victim to a scam, it is critical to contact the police as soon as possible and to make a statement in order for an investigation to be opened into the matter. It will also typically be necessary to notify any bank involved and to get confirmation from them that they are investigating the scam from their side as well.
While it may no be possible to eradicate the existence of scams, it is very possible to mitigate the risks each individual has of becoming a victim of one. Being as informed as possible and discussing all details of a transaction with the relevant industry professionals can go a long way ensure a safe, secure and beneficial transaction.
Written by Wessel de Kock