A Western Australian couple have been scammed out of their entire home purchase savings after a fraudster cloned the settlement agent’s email address.
Property buyers and sellers have been cautioned to “be suspicious” of payment demands made via email, after a young Thornlie couple’s dream of buying their first home was shattered when a scammer stole their savings of almost $133,000 just before Christmas.
According to the Western Australian Commission for Consumer Protection, after having their offer on a Piara Waters home accepted, the couple received an email, supposedly from their settlement agent, asking for a payment of $110,000.
Not realising that the email address differed from the settlement agent’s by one letter, the couple transferred three payments amounting to $110,000 on 15 and 16 December, then a further payment supposedly for stamp duty of $22,981.40 on 21 December 2020.
It was only after they were asked for a subsequent payment of $480,000 that the couple discovered they had been scammed.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection Lanie Chopping said it was heartbreaking for the couple to lose the money that they had worked so hard to save.
“Ruthless criminals who hide behind the anonymity of the internet have little regard for the circumstances of their victims. We must ensure that we do not reward their devious efforts by falling for their deceitful tactics,” Ms Chopping said.
“Payment redirection or ‘man in the middle’ scams are becoming all too common with email accounts being hacked and cloned, with demands for money being made in situations where the victims may be expecting to receive such a request, so are less likely to question it.”
Ms Chopping cautioned that property transactions are always prime targets for scammers, given that they involve large sums of money.
“People working in the industry and consumers involved in buying or selling property need to be extra vigilant when acting on payment requests. Be suspicious of any email asking for a payment of money or advising of a change in bank account details to where payments are to be sent.”
Steps in protecting yourself when buying a property: