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‘No one is immune’: Scammers targeting property buyers

Compensation lawyers say more property buyers are falling victim to payment diversion scams.

Compensation lawyers say more property buyers are falling victim to payment diversion scams. Photo: AAP

Property buyers are being swindled out of hundreds of thousands of dollars as scammers target the email accounts of financial service businesses.

Scammers are hacking the cybersecurity systems of conveyancing professionals and tricking potential home buyers into transferring them settlement money.

Slater and Gordon compensation lawyer Julijana Todorovic says there has been an increase in the number of people contacting their firm for legal advice relating to the diversion scams.

“Those who have come forward to date have lost amounts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, which is deeply concerning,” she told AAP.

Payment diversion scams involve scammers hacking into the businesses’ security systems and breaching customer data.

They can gain access to a customer’s email address, home address, banking information and identification documents.

This personal information is then used by scammers to intercept emails between the two parties before requesting funds be deposited into a different bank account.

“An increasing number of people have unwittingly transferred large sums of money, many hundreds of thousands, in accordance with detailed instructions they’ve received via email purporting to be from their conveyancer,” Ms Todorovic said.

“But to their horror, they’ve learned that the email was from someone pretending to be their conveyancer.”

Ms Todorovic said scammers did not discriminate against their victims based on their age, digital literacy or postcode.

“We have seen clients with very high digital and financial literacy who have fallen victim due to the sophistication of these scams,” she said.

“No one is immune from being targeted.”

Slater and Gordon have been handling a number of cases for victims in an attempt to receive compensation from the scammers.

Seeking compensation was a lengthy process that required proof of inadequate cybersecurity measures on the part of the conveyancer who enabled the scammer in the first place.

“It can take months to obtain the evidence required, not to mention it being an incredibly stressful time for the property buyers involved,” Ms Todorovic said.

The consumer watchdog said there were ways for customers to protect themselves from falling victim to a financial scam.

“Don’t rush when making payments for invoices received by email … take the time to call the business on a number you have found yourself to confirm that the payment details are correct,” the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said.

“Act quickly if something feels wrong. If you have shared financial information or transferred money, contact your bank immediately.”

As for businesses, Ms Todorovic said it was critical for conveyancers to have up-to-date malware installed on their accounts and use a sophisticated email server.

“Conveyancers must also make it clear to their clients that they should check the email addresses of any correspondence from them and not transfer any funds,” she said.

-AAP

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