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Are your transactions safe from hackers?

Promoted by John Ahern, CEO InfoTrack
22 March 2019 | 5 minute read
260319 Are you at risk of property deposit theft

Promoted by InfoTrack.

Deposit theft has become a serious issue in the real estate industry but there’s a new service that safeguards your communications and trust account details.

You’ve likely heard some of the horror stories already about property deposits lost in an instant to cybercriminals. Hackers have become experts in the real estate process. They know the ins and outs of a standard property transaction and they’re watching, waiting and planning their attacks with precision.

The ACCC received 24,291 reports of phishing attempts in 2018. These cybercriminals phish for personal information online to hack into your email accounts. They know when funds are changing hands and they send perfectly timed and extremely realistic messages to update account details and redirect funds into fraudulent accounts.

You and your clients are targets

You may think it’ll never happen to you, but it can happen to anyone. Hackers are targeting buyers, sellers and agents, especially in relation to the transfer of deposit funds. Two cases from 2018 outline the most common schemes for redirecting funds.

  • Hackers impersonating real estate agents

In early 2018, Consumer Affairs Victoria issued an alert advising real estate agents to brush up on their cyber security and to implement more stringent verification of payment instructions. This was on the heels of reports of more than $200,000 in losses from an email hacking scam. Cybercriminals hacked into the email accounts of real estate agents to siphon buyers’ deposit funds. Once they’d hacked into the account, the hackers would wait for the agent to send through the contract of sale and trust account details to the buyer, then they’d send a second email from the agent’s account advising that the account details had been incorrect. The buyers then transferred deposit funds into the fraudulent account based on the hacker’s updated instructions.

  • Hackers impersonating sellers

In May 2018, Andrew Buckley sold one of his investment properties in the Gold Coast via a real estate agency. The buyer had transferred the $120,000 deposit to the agency, who took $30,000 in commission and then told Mr. Buckley to email them his bank account details. Mr. Buckley sent an email with his bank account details, but shortly after the original email, a second false email was sent requesting that the money be transferred to a different bank account. The second email looked like it was sent from him and the agency sent $90,000 to a fake account based on the instructions.

These cases demonstrate the lengths that hackers will take to divert funds. Their attacks are carefully planned and seamlessly executed.

It’s not just about lost funds

On average, a successful cyberattack costs an Australian business $1.89 million according to a survey conducted by Webroot. But there’s a lot more at stake than money. If your agency is hit by a successful cyberscam, it could have a huge impact on your brand which is one of the greatest assets for any agency. Negative word of mouth and media stories can spread like wildfire and destroy the goodwill you’ve built up for your brand. In PWC’s 2018 Global Economic Crime & Fraud Survey, 36% of respondents reported that fraud had a high impact on reputation and brand strength.

Sending and confirming bank account details over email or SMS is putting your transactions at risk. The days when it was easy to spot a fake email are long gone, it only takes a few seconds of lapsed judgment by any party to lose a deposit. The risks are simply too high to continue using unsecure methods of communication.

So how can you safeguard your deposits?

InfoTrack has been servicing the property industry for the past 19 years and as the dominant provider of e-conveyancing solutions in Australia, we’ve been working with our clients and stakeholders to build a solution to this problem.

Securexchange is a secure website that allows agents and buyers to communicate and arrange the deposit in a safe environment away from the prying eyes of hackers. It’s only accessible by verified users and requires multi-factor authentication every time you login for additional security. When you use Securexchange and the buyer transfers the deposit to the trust account that you’ve entered into Securexchange, the deposit funds are guaranteed by InfoTrack.

Securexchange is free and safeguards your property deposits and your reputation. Try it today. 

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