Cyber safety in property

If there is one thing Lockdown has taught us, it’s that people will continue to be spending most of their time at, and working from, home. This is the ‘new normal’ where social distancing and mask wearing has become a way of life. As a consequence, there has been a massive impact on the housing market in general, but with a particular vengeance comeback in the coastal cities of East London and Port-Elizabeth.

While the Eastern Cape housing market has spent the last decade underperforming relative to the national market, it has enjoyed stronger growth in prices and demand for residential property since late 2017. This indication, together with factors such as a pent-up demand from the first few months of lockdown and the low interest rates, sees an encouraging rising trend in home buyers and investors across all price ranges.

Now that people have been ‘forced’ to stay home, many homeowners are wanting to sell their property to upscale to larger properties to provide more comfort or to allow for a home office. Although the lowering of interest rates has helped to fuel this property-buying boom, buyers are also noticing and appreciating the value in homes as they search for their ‘forever home’. Property investors have also started to invest again, perceiving a better return on their investment in this asset class.

In light of the property boom, it’s also important to be aware of the rise in email scams or cyber scams in the property industry. Property transactions remain a favourite when it comes to online fraudsters because you’re dealing with large sums of money and it’s fairly easy to intercept electronic communication that happens between attorneys and clients.

There are two main scam categories to take note of:

  1. Payments from the attorney to you. In this case the seller has given a transfer instruction and nominated a bank account to receive the sale proceeds. At the last minute the conveyancing firm receives a mail from ‘you’ changing the bank details. Your mails have been intercepted and you have been a victim of a scam.
  2. Payments from you to the attorney. Once again your emails have been intercepted and you receive an authentic looking (but fraudulent) email from the conveyancing firm asking you to pay into a given bank account.

Once the money has been paid and you realise you have been scammed, your chances of catching up with them are slim. This is why it is vital to take some simple steps to reduce your risk of being scammed. This includes ensuring that you choose a trusted and professional attorney; keeping your anti-virus, anti-malware and other security software up to date; educating yourself on methods to find out the real source of emails and never accepting notification of any change in your attorney’s banking details without first visiting or phoning to confirm.

Your home purchase doesn’t need to be a stressful one and if you are in the market to purchase a property and need trusted and professional conveyancers to assist, then please contact us.

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