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Five ways to protect a residential estate from fraudsters

Johannesburg, 01 Oct 2021

Did you know that someone is defrauded online every 32 seconds? According to Sharon Knowles from Da Vinci Forensics, residential estates are prime pickings for scammers.

‘The biggest concern with residential estates is the huge amount of information stored about their typically affluent residents, as well as their staff and contractors. Vast amounts of data, including financial transactions, is naturally very appealing to scammers,’ she explains.

So how do you stop your estate falling victim to fraudsters who are influenced by notorious con artists like Anna Sorokin and Shimon Hayut? 

1. Identify what needs protecting

In today’s data driven world, every shred of information is of value.

‘Residential estates have always stored data on things like the entry and exit of contractors and visitors, but thanks to Covid-19, we must take temperature checks of anyone arriving at an estate. This is an additional layer of personal information which needs to be stored safely and correctly,’ says Richard Frost from Vox, a leading South African ICT operator.

Scammers tend to target your weak spot so make sure you know how each shred of information is being collected, stored, and deleted. ‘Even the way refuse is collected and disposed of can be a risk,’ warns Frost.

‘Some estates will leave trash unguarded outside the estate for a contractor to collect, not realising that it can contain personal information which can be used for identity theft, social engineering attacks and online scams,’ he adds.

2. Hire experts

Treat the safety of your data the same was as you do physical security, says Aaron Thornton from Turrito Networks, an IT service provider.

‘Just like you would enlist the services of a contractor to provide state of the art physical safety (guards and patrollers, electric fencing, and biometric access control) so too should you do the same for your valuable data,’ he says.

Allocate a budget to pay for a professional company who can perform regular IT audits, monitor possible data breeches and who also don’t have a vested interest when recommending solutions.

3. Educate residents

There has been huge emphasis on educating staff about data collection, especially after POPI Act came into effect, but what about your residents?

‘Data security in the office might have increased over the years, but this is not the case at home,’ says Knowles. In fact, data security may not even be a priority for your residents.

‘At Da Vinci Cybersecurity, we have noticed that, over the last two years, as the number of Covid-19 cases rose in a country, so too did the number of cyberattacks. This is because more people were working from home, with relaxed protocols,’ she says.

4. Trust your instincts

Henk Olivier from Ozone Information Technology Distribution explains that solar geyser and generator fraud is one of the latest scams to hit the property sector.

‘Generator fraud is huge now, with scammers tricking ordinary homeowners and developers for deposits on generators that never arrive. Some of these syndicates are so good, that they even have a legitimate website, complete a physical inspection of the development and provide details on installation and delivery,’ he explains.

Remember to do your research – check for when a website was set up, always ask for references or recommendations from friends or other estate managers and go with your gut – it usually is right.

5. Have a plan

Things will go wrong so make sure you know what to do.

‘Contact the South African Fraud Prevention Service on (011) 867 2234 or via email at for assistance with fraud prevention, combating financial fraud and crime, and help if you are a victim of impersonation or fraud,’ explains Frost.

‘If you, a resident or member of staff is a victim of fraud, open a case with the police immediately, as prosecution can’t happen without a case number,’ he continues.

Finally, have a list of companies on hand that specialise in data and financial forensics and who can return things to normal quickly.