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Ash
Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
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Experience:  Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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I have a question regarding contract law and fraud. I am

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I have a question regarding contract law and fraud. I am employing a building company to carry out an extension at my home. I have entered into a contract with them under a JCT Building Contract form. I am invoiced weekly for stage payments throughout the work.
They send VAT invoices to me by email with no hard copy by hand or post. These invoices contain instructions for payment - ie details of the bank account to transfer payment into. Recently it appears that somehow my email account was hacked and two VAT invoices were intercepted and altered by fraudsters to change the bank account instructions to pay into below these were delivered to my inbox. The hackers also sent an email to the builders apparently from my email account informing them that I was having difficulty with payment and that I would pay these two invoices together at the end of the following week.
Meanwhile I followed instructions and made payment to the accounts as stated on these invoices - which apparently came from the builders email and to all intents appeared to be totally genuine. I had no reason to query them until the end of the following week when the builder contacted me asking when he would receive payment.
My question is this - who is actually the victim of the fraud - me or the builder? I did not ask for the builder to email invoices to me. He chose this method of transmittal. He did not provide a hard copy which he could have done by post, by hand or by fax. He did not advise me that moneys should only be paid into a specific bank account. In fact I received email messages apparently from the builder stating that he was having problems with his account and that I should pay as instructed. These messages also proved to be fraudulent.
The builder is claiming that I have suffered the loss because my email was not secure. I have stated that my email does not form part of the contract as the contract is silent on this. I have stated to he builder that if he considered that my email was not sufficiently secure then he had ample opportunity to use other legally recognised forms of delivering his invoices and payment instructions to me.
In short the builders argument is that my email was hacked. My argument is that I have followed the terms of the contract in respect of payment. The method of forging invoices is not relevant.
In the meantime I have reported the matter to all authorities and await their investigations. If the funds (circa GBP 20,000) can be recovered then all is well but I am not optimistic, and if the builder has legally suffered the loss rather than me then there will be a discussion with him in due course.
Regards
Don Bissell
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ash replied 1 year ago.

Hello my name is ***** ***** I will help you.

Is the invocie in the body of email or on an attachment ?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The invoices were attachments to the emails
Expert:  Ash replied 1 year ago.

And it was hacked from your end, not th builders end?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
It appears that somehow my email account was accessed which is surprising because that address is not available publicly. My password ***** considered strong by Yahoo. I do not know if the hackers accessed the builder's system also but I suspect that I was targeted because I was their customer. However I have no proof of this and there are various ways that fraudsters could have identified me through their supply chain etc. My bank fraud department advises that it is probable that I was targeted because I was a customer of the builder as the chances of my account being hacked randomly and a fraud such as this set up must be millions to one. The fraud only worked because no hard copy invoices were sent and that suggests that the fraudsters had some knowledge of the way that the builder worked. But it could also be a complete coincidence
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
your offer of a discussion for GBP 44 - is that in addition to the price that I have already paid to this websIte?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I do not wish to have a telephone discussion. I simply want an answer to the query I have raised. If you cannot or are unwilling to respond then please withdraw from this question so that someone else can re
Expert:  Ash replied 1 year ago.

Thanks. It's bad news I am afraid, If it was your email that was hacked then sadly you are responsible.

That is not the fault of the builder that your email was hacked. If the builders email had been hacked and then the false details sent that would be different.

But as it is your email then sadly you are liable and therefore this means you are still liable for the builders invocie.

However you should report this to the police as it may be they can trace the money and get it back.

But as the hack was your end not the builders end then you are liable.

Can I clarify anything for you about this today please?

Alex

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I am still unclear about the legal contract aspect. The builder is required by law to provide official VAT invoices. I thought that email was not a legally recognised method of document transmission. The builder could have sent invoices by post, by hand or by fax. The invoices delivered to my inbox were forged. I did not receive the 'genuine' invoices. Surely the builder has a duty of care..?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
If the builder had posted the invoice and it had been intercepted and altered then delivered to me, would I still be liable? It does seem to me to be a similar situation
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Do you intend to respond to the follow up that I wrote?
Expert:  Ash replied 1 year ago.

Apologies for the delay I was in Court.

Email is legal and is recognised by the civil procedure rules. Your email was hacked, not the builders.

If the builders email was hacked that would be different and he would be liable.

But YOUR email was hacked, therefore making you liable.

I am sorry. Can I clarify anything else?
Alex

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The builder claims that my email system was not sufficiently secure because it did not use a dedicated (i.e.company) server. I have a Yahoo.com email account. Yahoo is used by 660 million users per month. If the builder states that this was unsatisfactory is he open to some liability in the matter if he uses it instead of a method that he considers is secure?
Expert:  Ash replied 1 year ago.

If your account has hacked, that is NOT the builders fault.

It is no different from sending it in the post, which is also not secure and can be intercepted.

Your account was hacked - that is not his fault sadly.

It is a matter between you and Yahoo.

I am very sorry but I have to be honest.

Can I clarify anything for you? Alex

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I cannot help feeling that this is fundamentally unfair. When something seems wrong in law then it often is. My email address is not available to the general public. It is not mentioned in the contract. Only my postal address is specified. Why does the builder apparently have the right to use it for sending important documents and then have absolutely no responsibly for his actions when something goes wrong? I accept that the builder did not deliberately set out to cause me loss but it occurred because of his choice/action rather than mine. My bank fraud dept thinks that it is quite probable that I was targeted because I was a customer of the builder
Expert:  Ash replied 1 year ago.

I agree it seems unfair, but the builder is not responsible for your email being hacked. That would be between you and Yahoo.

Unless you said to the builder that you do not want invoices by email and paid them, then its not his problem.

If when you had the email you said - hey, I dont want it by email send it by post, then that would be different.

I am very sorry and I know its unfair but its between you and Yahoo.

Can I clarify anything for you about this today please?
Alex

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