BE ALERT TO SCAMMERS
BUYERS, sellers and tenants are being urged to double-check any email from their real estate or settlement agent regarding the transfer of funds, with recent incidents of cyberfraud resulting in almost $590,000 being stolen in property-related scams.
In the most serious case, an 83-year old woman lost $557,000 after hackers intercepted emails about a property purchase settlement.
In other incidents, two clients of a settlement agency lost a total of $25,658, while three renters were duped into transferring $7300 in bond money to the bank account of a scammer pretending to be a property manager.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said there was an urgent need for anyone involved in property transactions in WA to be on high alert and double-check emails relating to the transfer of funds to bank accounts in particular.
“As the scammers could have hacked into the client’s or the agency’s email server, (the email) may appear genuine, so we recommend that the change is confirmed with a phone call to the agency’s previously known number to verify if the request is authentic,” he said.
“Don’t reply to the email or use any numbers provided in the email as you could be communicating with the scammers.
“The same applies to agents, as clients’ email accounts could have been hacked and payments may be inadvertently diverted to the hacker’s account.”
Mr Hillyard said it was imperative that all real estate and settlement agencies used the highest possible security software to protect the integrity of their computer systems and email servers.
“It’s believed the hacking may have occurred as a result of accessing email accounts via public wi-fi and consumers and industry professionals are cautioned about the dangers of using email on open networks such as these when arranging important transactions,” he said.
“Regular changing of passwords for email and bank accounts and independent verification of requests for changes to bank or contact details should be normal practice, especially in wake of these recent cases.
“This advice really applies to all businesses, not just the property industry.”
Cyber-attacks and scam losses should be reported to Consumer Protection by email wascamnet@dmirs. wa.gov.au or by calling 1300 30 40 54.