The real estate industry has become a prime target for hackers looking for an easy way to intercept high-value fund transfers. And they’re getting more sophisticated with their techniques. This means all parties must be vigilant – lawyers, conveyancer, real estate agents, buyers and sellers. You’re only as strong as the weakest party in the transaction and these things can happen to anyone if you don’t take the time to double check details and use common sense before transferring money. We’ve outlined a number of high profile Australian fraud cases below; heed these as a warning of what can happen if you don’t take proper precautions when exchanging bank account details.
$250,000 | Melbourne | Sellers
Dani Venn, a former contestant on MasterChef was left homeless after hackers stole $250,000 from the proceeds of her home sale. Hackers broke into her conveyancer’s email account, accessed their PEXA account, set up new user accounts and changed the bank details in the system. The funds were then deposited into the hacker’s bank account instead of Ms Venn’s.
$90,000 | Brisbane | Sellers
Andrew Buckley, lost $90,000 of his deposit proceeds from the sale of his Gold Coast investment property when his real estate agency deposited the money into a fraudster’s account. The agency had asked Buckley to email them his bank account details, but soon after his initial email, another email was sent from fraudsters requesting that the money be sent to another bank account. The agency failed to confirm the updated account details with Buckley before depositing the money.
$500,000 | South Australia | Buyer
A South Australian woman based overseas wanted to move back to Adelaide for retirement and conducted the transaction via emails. She didn’t realise the communication between her and her conveyancer had been intercepted and she transferred her life savings to a hacker.
$200,000 | Victoria | Buyers
Consumer Affairs Victoria received reports of more than $200,000 in losses from an email scam targeted at hacking the email accounts of real estate agents. After the agent sent through the contract of sale and trust account details to the buyer for payment of the deposit, hackers sent through a second email advising the account details were incorrect and leading buyers to deposit the funds into a false account.
Don’t fall victim to fraud like the unlucky individuals above. All parties to the transaction have to be vigilant. Educate yourself, your employees and your clients to not only protect your clients’ hard-earned money but your firm’s reputation.