Mandurah: fake settlement agent email scam thwarted by savvy buyers

ASTUTE property buyers in Mandurah thwarted an attempt by scammers to steal more than $200,000 from the settlement of a local property.

The buyers, a father and son, received an email claiming to be from their settlement agent asking them to deposit funds into a bank account in order to finalise the settlement of a house purchase.

They noticed the email address was slightly different from the original one, so they queried the request with their settlement agent, who confirmed it was a fake email.

Consumer Protection acting Commissioner David Hillyard praised the actions of the buyers, who could have lost a substantial amount of money if they had acted without thinking.

“Being suspicious about any email asking for money and double checking its authenticity is good practice, especially when large amounts of money are involved,” Mr Hillyard said.

“It’s very easy for scammers to hack into email accounts, as we believe happened to the buyers in this case, and get information about financial transactions currently underway.

“The scammers then clone email addresses and try to entice the parties involved to siphon funds from the transaction into bank accounts under their control.

“All too often we hear of scam attempts like these being successful, resulting in financial hardship for the victims. In most cases, all it takes is a phone call to confirm requests for money are genuine and prevent any losses.

“So this attempt is a reminder to everyone involved in property transactions in WA to be aware that criminals are actively trying to intercept communications and money flows for their own financial benefit.

“Whether you are a buyer or seller or real estate/settlement agent, double check email addresses and bank accounts before sending or authorising the transfer of funds and, if in doubt, pick up the phone.”