By Lizel van Deventer and Nico van Deventer from Gerrie Ebersöhn Attorneys Inc.
South Africa has the third highest number of cybercrime victims worldwide, resulting in a loss of about R2.2 billion each year to cybercrime.
The reality is that every time you log onto your smartphone, computer, or open an email, you are at risk of cybercrime.
Even more concerning is the fact that scammers do not need access to your bank counts or passwords in order to steal your hard-earned cash. By hacking into your email or messages, scammers can intercept invoices and change the payment details of individuals and businesses.
In the Jurgens case, Jurgens (the sellers) intended to sell their property. They appointed a conveyancing attorney to assist with the transfer of their property.
A scammer intercepted emails that were sent between the conveyancing attorney’s secretary and the sellers. The scammer indicated to the secretary via an email that looked strikingly similar to the sellers’ email (a bogus email), that the sellers changed their account details and instructed her to pay the proceeds into the scammer’s bank account. On registration, the conveyancing attorneys, acting under the impression that they had the correct account details which had supposedly been provided by the seller, paid the proceeds into the scammer’s bank account.
The sellers subsequently sued the conveyancing attorney for the damages they have suffered as a result of the payment. The attorney denied any liability.
The court found that the conveyancing attorneys had indeed failed to carry out their duties with the “due care, skill and diligence expected” as a reasonable attorney would have taken steps to verify the information provided.
The conveyancing attorney neglected to perform their mandate resulting in the loss sustained by the sellers. This neglect to perform their mandate resulted in a breach of contract.
The court further held that it is no defence to shift responsibility to the secretary and state that the account was dictated to the conveyancing attorneys by the secretary. The conveyancing attorneys owed a duty to the sellers to act in their interests and safeguard their money.
In the electronic and fast-paced age that we live in, every person should take a moment and ensure that they exercise the “due care, skill and diligence expected” when dealing with sensitive data and payments.
Due to the rapidly evolving and highly sophisticated methods of scamming and hacking used by cybercriminals, protecting yourself against cybercrime is becoming increasingly difficult.
Consider the following tips to protect yourself against cybercrime