We have been advised of a new scam involving a slightly different modus operandi from the one doing the rounds for the past two years.
In one such matter, after a property sale had been cancelled, the conveyancer needed to refund the deposit to the purchaser. He sent an e-mail to the purchaser’s Gmail address, advising her that the refund would be paid into the FNB account from which the payment had been generated. He received an e-mail response stating that the FNB account had been temporarily discontinued. He thereafter received an e-mail with details of an account held with Nedbank, into which the refund should be paid and he duly made the payment using electronic banking.
In the meantime, the purchaser received e-mails (ostensibly from the conveyancer) apologising for the delay in the transfer of the funds.
By the time the conveyancer became aware that the Nedbank account did not belong to the purchaser, all the money had been withdrawn from the account.
On closer examination it became clear that the e-mails sent to the conveyancer, ostensibly by the purchaser, in fact came from a Gmail address that was almost identical to the purchaser’s address. One letter had been swapped around - for example the address email@example.com became firstname.lastname@example.org. The conveyancer did not notice the slight discrepancy.
E-mails which the real purchaser received, ostensibly from the conveyancer, also came from an almost identical address – for example the address email@example.com, became h.sucker@scammedInc.co.za. The purchaser did not notice the slight discrepancy.
WE WARN ALL PRACTITIONERS TO BE EXTREMELY VIGILANT WHEN RECEIVING ANY INSTRUCTIONS VIA E-MAIL, PARTICULARLY WHERE THERE ARE INSTRUCTIONS TO MAKE PAYMENTS.
Risk Manager, AIIF
The advice given is very good. It places more responsibility on the attorneys and secretaries to verify all important information by phone as well as email. Most transactions are handled almost exclusively via email but it is safer to still use phone calls in addition to the emails. All important information should be independently verified (banking details especially) and also all parties must be carefully Fica'ed to ensure everything is legal and to avoid becoming prey to a scam!!!