Fremantle Gazette - - RESIDENTIAL -

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. or by call­ing 1300 30 40 54.

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