Real estate business email compromise scam

July 2018

There’s been an increase in fraudsters stealing real estate deposits by compromising email addresses, usually the real estate agent’s email.

This is a type of Business Email Compromise (BEC) scam, a scam where fraudsters impersonate the payment recipient by either hacking their email account or using a similar email address to their address. They then change payment instructions so the buyer sends funds to the fraudster’s third party account instead of the legitimate recipient. This happens more easily in real estate transactions because the innocent purchaser is expecting to make a payment so they don’t realise their mistake until it is too late. To make matters worse the money is usually moved offshore quickly so becomes almost impossible to get back.

ANZ recommends the following steps when responding to an invoice or request for payment:

  • Being cautious when making payments to bank accounts that you have not paid before. Making a call to the company’s registered address to verify their bank account number is recommended
  • Examine sender details carefully, watching for similar domain names or characters that have been swapped for other letters
  • Be wary of last minute changes to payment instructions, especially if made out of normal business hour
  • For business owners ensure staff handling payments are trained to recognise suspicious emails

You can also help prevent your email account being compromised by:

  • Ensuring you do not click on links, or download attachments, in emails from people you do not know
  • Keeping your anti-virus software up to date
  • Ensuring your operating software and all applications are up to date
  • Using strong and unique passwords, particularly for your email and online banking
  • Installing adequate firewalls

If you think you have been a victim of this type of fraud and have potentially paid money from your bank account to the wrong account, please act quickly. Call ANZ on 0800 18 18 18 (ext 64362) if you have been the victim of this scam. There is no guarantee that we can get the money back but we have more chance the sooner we know.