By Laura Valenti, Managing Director – Solutions Property Management

In September, David and I were invited to a Macquarie Bank client seminar on fraud. We heard about the cunning and creative ways that fraudsters can obtain our personal information in order to steal from us.

We watched videos of real-life situations where people were tricked into giving their personal details to strangers. We even saw how a stranger impersonating a Telco customer’s wife was able to make a simple call and change the customer’s username and password.

Social media profiles contain a treasure trove of information that can be used against people to hack into their accounts and steal money. We should be vigilant with our privacy settings and be very careful what information we post.

We should also be vigilant about keeping our passwords secure. There are ‘password manager’ apps available that enable you to set multiple strong secure passwords without having to remember or keep a copy of them.

The use of email in facilitating financial transactions means that email accounts are a popular target for fraudsters. They can hijack your email account and send emails from ‘you’ to all your contacts who can be tricked into transferring money, changing bank account details, or actioning a request that they think is coming from you. The following examples from a colleague of mine show how easily this can happen:

I used to own a real estate business in a major franchise and two instances occurred while facilitating property purchases that I will never forget. In the first case, I received an email from the seller’s solicitor advising of a change of trust account details for the purchaser to deposit the funds. Sensing something was not right, I called the solicitor before actioning the transfer and we discovered that the email was fraudulent.  In the second instance, our office received an email from the solicitor, advising of the account details for transfer of settlement funds. In this case, my admin officer noticed that the solicitor’s account details were different to what she had on file and stopped the transaction. In both cases, someone had hacked into the solicitor’s email account and was having funds redirected into their account.

Another office of the same franchise was not so lucky – $250,000 was transferred into the fraudulent account and lost. As there was no electronic fraud component in the agency’s insurance policy, the insurance company would not cover the loss.

To protect our clients against fraudulent actions, we have a strict policy on changing information such as bank details and email addresses. Before we will update our system, we require a ‘Change of Details’ form to be completed, signed by ALL owners of the property, and returned to us. Finally, we will call the client to confirm the directive has come from them.

We understand that this procedure may cause some annoyance, but I am sure you agree this is a small price to pay for protecting your income.

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