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Investors and real estate agents are urged to be on high alert after $70,000 meant for a Perth property settlement was stolen by scammers.
The scammers were able to nab two payments totalling $70,000 by cloning the settlement agent’s Yahoo email address, changing just one character.
The scam saw the scammers initially send a payment request for $48,000 to the WA buyers. The email contained details of a bank account controlled by the scammers and, believing it was a genuine email from the agent, the buyer paid the money as requested. Later, another client of the same settlement agent sent $22,000 to what is believed to be the same scammer.
WA Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said scams such as these are becomingly increasing widespread, with scammers specifically targeting those active in the property market due to the high-value assets.
“These payment interception scams are becoming increasingly common where the fraudsters become the ‘man in the middle’ and redirect payments from a legitimate bank account to their own,” Mr Hillyard said.
“Money transfers related to property transactions usually involve large amounts so tapping into the communications between sellers or buyers and real estate or settlement agents is significant target with potentially high windfalls for the scammers.
“If successful, as in this case, the proceeds from this type of cyber crime can be lucrative, so we want to make sure that these incidents are not repeated and don’t give any incentive for fraudsters to continue their criminal activities and profit from them.”
Mr Hillyard said there are some steps buyers and sellers can take to help reduce the likelihood of falling victim to these scams.
“Advice for buyers and sellers of property is to be suspicious about any email asking for money transfers or advising of a change in bank account details to where payments should be sent,” he advised.
“To help prevent any losses, all it takes is a phone call to confirm requests for money or a change in bank account details are genuine. Don’t use phone numbers given in the email and don’t directly reply to the email. Use the contact details previously provided.”