Whilst I don't have personal knowledge of this particular matter, it does come as an important reminder to be extra careful when transferring money online. Unfortunately, this type of scam is relatively wide-spread, to the point where the Law Society of New South Wales has issued scam alerts warning of the same. In fact just minutes before the publishing of this article, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) published a notice confirming that Australian "small businesses reported 1,200 scams with $4.5 million in losses in the first half of this year. While this is fewer reports than in the previous six-month period, it is a more than threefold increase in losses".
This particular incident involving Benny Elias reminded me of my friends, who at one time paid a progress payment to the account nominated by their builder, only for the builder to chase them up for payment. My friends were understandably surprised by the follow-up since they had already transferred the money.
It turns out that a scammer had hacked the builder's computer, allowing them to send my friends an email which appeared to be legitimate correspondence from the builder - but which included the scammer's bank account details in place of the builder's. As they were expecting the email, and nothing in the email appeared amiss, they made the payment.
You can imagine the sinking feeling felt by my friends and their builder when they realised what had occurred. Unfortunately, the funds could not be retrieved - and everyone ended up out of pocket (except for the scammer).
Luckily, Benny Elias' bank's cyber fraud team contacted him and they were able to help him retrieve his funds.
With the above in mind, it is crucial to remember that simply relying on 'luck' is far from the best strategy! It should go without saying, you should ensure that you have up to date, effective security protection for your computer system to properly guard against hackers.
In addition to ensuring that your system is secure, there are a few simple steps which Holman Webb urges readers to take as a further line of defence whenever funds are being transferred.
Firstly, while it may be ideal to provide account details via email in order to keep a record of any relevant instructions, it is always important to follow the email up with a phone call to the other party. By calling, you give yourself the assurance of speaking to someone you know and trust - as well as the ability to confirm the instructions (including the payment details) given via email.
With this in mind, it is crucial that you first confirm that the phone number you are calling is actually that of your trusted connection - otherwise you risk speaking with the scammer, who would 'confirm' their own payment details as those of your legitimate contact.
As has been shown time and time again, it is crucial to always confirm:
- that any email which instructs you to make an electronic transfer of funds is legitimate (not from a scammer!) and;
- that there are no typos in the numbers.
These are simple, yet essential and above all effective steps to take in order to lower your risk of being scammed.
Do you have any stories or experiences with scammers and hackers?
We would be interested to hear from readers who have found themselves in situations similar to those discussed in this article - so please get in touch with Holman Webb's Property Group, especially if you think your story might serve as a stern warning to others!