A spate of recent scams have highlighted the need for settlement agents & their clients to be super-vigilant when dealing with online money transfers.

Whilst email hacks and scams aren’t new, the latest one resulted in the elderly buyer losing over $500,000.

How did the scam happen?

As part of the settlement process, the buyer was required to transfer money to the settlement agent’s trust account. The settlement agent emailed their account details to the buyer.

Although further details are still to come, it appears that the fraudsters intercepted the emails between the buyer & her settlement agent.  They sent a further email to the buyer requesting payment be made to an alternate account.

The buyer transferred the funds, totalling $557,000, to the second account, in accordance with the new instructions.  Once the funds reached that account, the fraudsters promptly transferred the money overseas.

Where can I hear more about the latest property scam?

You can read more in the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation & Safety announcement here.

Listen to the Commissioner for Consumer Protection, David Hillyard, speaking on ABC 720 radio at the 3-minute 20-second mark in this recording.

How can I protect myself against these scams?

To minimise the risk of this type or hack or fraud when buying a property, we recommend that you take the following precautions:

  • Never use unsecured public Wi-Fi to log in to your emails or do your online banking.
  • Install anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall software on your computer and mobile devices, and ensure that you update the software regularly.
  • Change your email & banking passwords regularly and use different passwords for each one.
  • Immediately prior to transferring funds, we recommend that you make a quick phone call to your conveyancer to verify the account details. Use our main office line 08 6210 0888, not any alternate number that may have been provided to you.

How will Metro Settlements help to protect me?

Metro Settlements have put various safeguards in place to assist you in minimising the risk of scams by hacking or fraud in relation to your property transaction. Including, but not limited to:

  • A comprehensive documented IT security policy including regular updates to anti-virus, anti-spyware & firewall software.
  • A cyber-crime insurance policy that covers costs incurred from emails being intercepted from our server.
  • Accepting payments by bank cheque, if you are not comfortable with transferring large sums of money electronically.
  • Never including our bank account details to you in the body of an email.

The most important thing that you can do to protect yourself is to stay vigilant.

Be on high alert and ensure that you independently verify emails from your real estate agent, settlement agent or bank before transferring any funds.

If in doubt, please call Metro Settlements and speak to your conveyancer about your concerns.