Renewed warning after another loss from WA property sale scam

Another loss from a cyber-attack that intercepted a property sale transaction has triggered Consumer Protection to issue a renewed warning to buyers, sellers, tenants and agents in WA to be extra vigilant.

In the latest case, the buyer of a Karrinyup property lost $20,000 after cyber criminals sent an email purporting to be from his real estate agent requesting the deposit be paid into a bank account that was controlled by the scammers.

This latest alert follows a warning issued in September 2017 after three cyber-attacks resulted in almost $590,000 being stolen in property-related scams. In one case, an 83 year old property buyer in Perth’s western suburbs lost $557,000 after the fraudsters intercepted email communications between her son, who was acting on her behalf, and their settlement agent.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard fears more money will be lost unless everyone involved in property transactions double checks information before sending money.

“Email accounts are frequently being hacked by scammers and messages are being sent that can look almost identical to the email address of a real estate or settlement agent,” Mr Hillyard said.

“So we recommend that, before sending money, buyers or tenants should check the bank account details by calling the agency to verify they are correct. Do not use contact details contained in emails that ask for money to be deposited into a particular account as the calls could be diverted to the scammers.

“Agents should also inform their clients, including potential buyers or tenants, to phone them if they get an email requesting money be sent to a particular account in order to verify its authenticity.

“As the amount of money being transferred in property transactions can be substantial, the risks are also substantial, so a few minutes checking the validity of emails and bank account details, or reverting to arranging to make the payment through a bank cheque or arranging for the bank to make the payment, is a quick and simple way to ensuring the funds are going to the intended recipient rather than reward cyber criminals for their illegal activities.”

Cyber-attacks and scam losses should be reported to WA ScamNet at Consumer Protection by email or by calling 1300 30 40 54.