Consumer Affairs Victoria has warned home buyers that it has received reports of a possible scam targeting them, with losses already exceeding $200,000.
The Victorian consumer affairs regulator has outlined that it has received notification on hackers targeting the email accounts of real estate agencies and attempting to scam home buyers into paying their deposits into the wrong bank account.
Consumer Affairs Victoria elaborated: “In most cases, the home buyer was sent an email from the selling agent with the contract of sale and trust account details for payment of the deposit. Shortly afterwards, they received 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 possibly a hack, and money paid goes to an account not related to the selling agent.”
The director of Consumer Affairs Victoria, Simon Cohen, said that it was “vital” that people involved in purchasing a property pay close attention to detail when transferring significant funds for a home deposit.
He added that home buyers should be “very suspicious” if they receive two emails from the same email address asking for payment.
“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.
The body advised home buyers to call their agents or visit them in person to verify which account they should be paying their deposits into.
It also said that real estate agents should take steps to ensure the security of their online systems and “regularly review” them to try and avoid these situations.
Any business or individual that believes they have been tricked into paying money into an incorrect account are advised to contact their bank immediately.
Instances of cyber crime can be reported to the Australian Cybercrime and Online Reporting Network (ACORN).
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