WA woman loses $732,000 to real estate scam after responding to fake email

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A future owner lost over $700,000 with just one click.

The Western Australian woman was buying property in Beaconsfield in April when she received an email from someone she thought was her settlement agent.

The email had sent authentic-looking documents and asked him to deposit the money in a bank account before settlement. The message came via a generic Hotmail email address that used the agency’s name.

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It wasn’t until the real settlement agent reminded the buyers to make payment before making the final inspection of the property that the scam was discovered.

At that point, it was too late. She lost about $732,000.

A future owner lost over $700,000 with just one click. File picture. Credit: Getty Images

This is a common sting known as “payment redirection” scams that typically target high-value financial transactions such as real estate purchases and business contracts.

In this case, crooks managed to intercept communications between the woman and her settlement worker. The scammers then sent the buyer a fake email, replacing the bank details with one they control.

The woman is one of nine victims in Western Australia alone this year who said they lost a total of $1,015,129 to payment redirection scams, three of which were involved in real estate transactions.

In 2021, 37 victims reported losing a total of $1,013,278, including eight victims and $168,000 in losses related to real estate transactions. Only two victims recovered $287,407 of their losses.

“Extremely devastating”

WA’s Consumer Protection Executive Director, Trish Blake, has urged all Australians to be wary of any emails requesting payment or advising of a change in bank details to where payments should be sent.

“These scams typically involve hacking into someone’s email account or computer system, but it can be difficult to determine exactly where the hack occurred,” Blake said.

“Hackers may have successfully guessed the password or installed spyware or malware on computers or laptops after recipients opened attachments or clicked on links in fraudulent emails.

“The losses from these scams can be extremely devastating for victims who may have lost their security deposit that they have saved for many years and not be able to buy their dream home. act of a company that does things hard that can least afford to lose such a large amount of money.

Australians are reminded to verify the sender of emails, to be particularly suspicious if the message is from a generic email service provider such as Gmail or Hotmail, to call the sender to confirm authenticity of an application using contact information from an official website and consider setting up multi-factor authentication on all online accounts.

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