Email hacking scam warning for home buyers and estate agents - Media release

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14 February 2018
Media releases

A new hacking scam is targeting Victorian home buyers and real estate agents, with reported losses in excess of $200,000.

Consumer Affairs Victoria is urging home buyers and estate agents to take extra measures to ensure the security of their money transfers after receiving reports of a possible hacking scam.

The scam appears to be targeting the email accounts of estate agents, which are being used to send emails with instructions for home buyers to deposit their money into the wrong bank account.

Home buyers have reported receiving an email with the contract of sale and trust account details for payment of their deposit to a selling agent.

However, shortly afterwards, the home buyers have reported receiving a second email from the same email address, advising them of an ‘error’ in the first email, and to deposit their money into a different account.

While it looks legitimate, the second email is believed to have been sent by a hacker who is siphoning money to an account not related to the selling agent.

Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria, Simon Cohen, said it is vital that people involved in purchasing a property pay close attention to detail when transferring significant funds for a home deposit.

“If you have purchased a home and receive an email from the estate agent with trust account details to make payment, call the agent or visit them in person to verify that the email is legitimate,” Mr Cohen said.

“Be very suspicious if you receive a second email telling you to make payment into another account, even if it is from the same email address.

“We also strongly encourage estate agents, and all businesses, to regularly review and secure their online systems to avoid these situations.”

To help keep your email accounts safe:

  • consider setting up a two-step verification process with your email accounts.
  • change your passwords and other verification details regularly
  • delete spam messages without opening them
  • do not share your email address online unless you need to.

Any businesses or individuals who believe they have been tricked into paying money into the wrong account are urged to contact their bank immediately.

Instances of cybercrime can be reported to the Australian Cybercrime and Online Reporting Network.

For more information on staying safe online, visit the Stay Smart Online website.