According to research from security specialists at Fortiguard Labs, 80-85% of cyber attacks occur via email. Email fraud has become a major problem in the Australian property market with many high profile cases making headlines in 2018. Hackers are continually finding new ways to intercept email communications and divert funds to different accounts, robbing innocent individuals of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
How are fraudsters using email to intercept property funds?
No one is safe when it comes to this kind of fraud and you’re only as strong as the weakest link in your transaction. Hackers are targeting anyone and everyone to get their hands on your funds- agents, lawyers, conveyancers, buyers and sellers. They either hack directly into your email or send emails from a lookalike account under your name to intercept communications and direct funds to their fraudulent account. For example, they may hack into an agent’s email and send updated account details to the buyer for the deposit, or they may hack into the seller’s email and send updated account details for the final fund transfer. They’re watching transactions, biding their time and swooping in when they know you’re most vulnerable.
How can you prevent hacks?
The number one thing is to use common sense; simply don’t send any sensitive information over email or proceed with any actions if you’re not 100% comfortable.
1) Always verify the sender – Carefully check the sending address to ensure its correct. Fraudsters often create almost identical emails to fool unsuspecting victims.
2) Be careful of attachments and links – Think twice before opening any attachments or links; it only takes one click to give hackers backdoor access. Don’t open anything you weren’t expecting unless you trust the sender and have confirmed with them.
3) Be on the lookout for unusual tone – If there’s anything different about the way the sender is communicating with you or they’re making an unusual request, verify with them over the phone before proceeding with any actions.
4) Double check everything – If someone is asking you to do something substantial or unusual over email, always confirm with them via phone or in person before proceeding.
6) Make sure your antivirus software is up to date – This is an easy step and a no-brainer to protect your systems from hacking.
With property transactions moving online across Australia, it’s becoming clear that more secure systems are needed to facilitate safe transfer of funds. Email is leaving too many people vulnerable to threat.
What else can you do?
1) NEVER send account information via email. Use a secure system like Securexchange to pass on sensitive information safely.
2) ALWAYS agree with all parties that you will double or triple check any change in details via different methods of communication. For example, if there is a change of account details it is not considered final unless also confirmed with a phone call.
Buying and selling property is a serious investment of time and money for everyone involved. Don’t leave yourself and the other parties to the transaction vulnerable to fraud. Be smart with how you communicate and use tools that you can trust to protect your money.