Home buyers engaging in conveyancing services are falling victim to cyber scammers who hack information from email accounts and use the information to pose as a purchaser’s conveyancer.
In one instance, a home buyer lost over $500,000.00 by conducting the conveyancing transaction through emails, without knowing she had transferred her life savings to a hacker who was posing as her conveyancer.
The hacker then instructs the home buyer to transfer the purchase money into a fraudulent trust bank account.
This leaves the transaction at risk and the home buyer in an uncertain position about getting her money back.
Conveyancing transactions involving the transfer of large sums of money are especially targeted by cyber criminals.
Email communications are particularly prone to being intercepted by hackers.
The hackers gain access to email accounts without any external sign of unauthorised access. The hackers wait and monitor email communications until funds are ready to be deposited to a nominated account, to intercept the email and alter the instructions of the transfer.
The danger is that the language in the email looks genuine and professional with good English.
Another attack was made on a Solicitor’s email account causing the Solicitor to deposit nearly $200,000.00 of sale proceeds to a hacker’s bank account. Enquiries made by the seller to the Solicitor were blocked on the email account. The hackers then responded to the seller’s queries using the Solicitor’s hacked email account.
Clients and law firms both need to be more vigilant and aware of the risks of cyber-attacks. A more proactive approach needs to be taken to check that an email did did come from the person who is stated to have sent the email.
You may minimise the risk of a cyber-attack by avoiding the communication of bank account details through email. This is not always possible in a highly digitised world.
One way to check the authenticity of an email requesting you to transfer money is to telephone the party who sent the email to confirm the details of the communication and to verify the BSB and account number verbally.
Remember not to act immediately on an email requesting you to transfer money, before having the opportunity to confirm the details of the communication by telephone or in person. It is also recommended to always follow good password protection practices for all your online accounts.
Tony Kim is an Associate Solicitor in our commercial & property law team. He has practiced law in various environments – rural, urban, domestic and international – which enables him to provide practical and result-oriented advice. Co-author, Michelle Xiao, is a Law Graduate undertaking work across an extensive range of legal practice areas. If you have a query or require assistance, contact Stephens & Tozer today.
21 October 2019