Details of how hackers intercepted e-mails between a businessman in the US and a Uitenhage law firm, supplied alternative banking details and walked away with nearly R1m have emerged in a civil battle in the Eastern Cape High Court (Port Elizabeth).

A Daily Dispatch report says Ben Jurgens wants conveyancer and notary Lynette Volschenk to pay up after her firm, Lynett Volschenk @ Law fell victim to a phishing scam. Jurgens, who lives in the US with his wife, has accused Volschenk, the director of Lynett@Law, of acting negligently when she failed to verify the purported change in banking details before transferring just under R970 000 – the proceeds of the sale of the Uitenhage property – into the hacker’s bank account.

He said factors such as a slight change in an e-mail address, suspicious proof of banking details and a change in the tone and manner of writing should have raised alarm bells.

He claimed Volschenk should have picked up the phone to verify the change before clicking the transfer button.

But – in defending the claim – Volschenk shifted much of the responsibility onto her secretary, claiming Jurgens had mostly communicated with her during the transfer process. Volschenk said the e-mails from the hackers had been drawn up in a sophisticated manner and she had accordingly acted as any reasonable attorney and conveyancer would have.

The report adds judgment has been reserved.

Full Daily Dispatch report