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Cyber scams and conveyancers

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As of July 2016, the Attorneys’ Insurance Indemnity Fund (AIIF) no longer covers conveyancing firms who have fallen victim to cybercrime. This is because of a dramatic increase in claims. Before 2016, the fund paid out R21.08m in total. During Q1 2016 alone, this rose to R30m. These cyber scams generally involve an e-mail arriving at the conveyancer’s office, seemingly from a client, notifying the conveyancer of a change of banking details. All future payments are then made into the new account, which in fact does not belong to the client. According to Maryna Botha, a director at Smith Tabata Buchanan Boyes, it is necessary for conveyancers to be vigilant, especially now that they are not covered for these losses. Says Botha: “We can no longer accept any of these kinds of notifications from clients at face value. We have had to train our staff to request original copies of change of banking detail notifications. They have to be suspicious of any communication that they receive and have to educate clients about this onerous extra step that they have to go through.” She believes that criminals have targeted conveyancing because a great deal of cash changes hands frequently. She adds that there is no other insurance available to protect conveyancers against such losses, so vigilance remains the only option.


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