12 March 2019

We’ve heard of cases where hackers have intercepted high-value fund transfers, and we know how much more sophisticated they’re becoming. Their success stories have caused a raise in concern for the real estate industry, who are now a prime target for their interception. 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. 

What we know about these hackers is that they’re targeting different parts of the exchange. We’ve outlined two high profile Australian fraud cases below; heed these as a warning of what can happen from the prying eyes of cyber criminals. One case outlines the thief impersonating the seller requesting the agent to deposit in the wrong account, and one is impersonating the agent to request the buyer to deposit in the wrong account.

Impersonating the seller 

What was assumed to be the “updated” account details of Andrew Buckley, a high-profile Gold Coast investor, was in fact a $90,000 success for an email fraudster. The agency had requested that Buckley send an email confirming his account details, but shortly after his initial email, another was sent from fraudsters requesting that the money be sent to another bank account. In a world where you can never be too cautious, the agency’s failure to verify and confirm the updated account details with Buckley resulted in a successful interception.

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Impersonating the buyer

An email scam targeted at hacking the email account of real estate agents resulted in more than $200,000 in losses. Consumer Affairs Victoria received reports after an agent sent through the contract of sale and trust account details to the buyer for payment of the deposit. Hackers intercepted email communication and sent through a second email advising the account details were incorrect and leading buyers to deposit the funds into a false account. In an industry where the conveyancing process is being conducted electronically, the protection of transactions is of great importance.

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These cases attest to the consequences if you don’t take proper precautions when exchanging bank account details. Cybercriminals are not discriminative when it comes to those they attack. Let these cases be reason enough in showcasing the importance of safeguarding property deposit funds and communication from hackers.

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