19 April 2024

Protect yourself against payment redirection scams

Stacks Law Firm


Stacks Law Firm is a leading Australian legal service provider with more than 250 people operating locally in many Australian communities. We are committed to supporting the legal needs of everyday Australians and businesses across every stage of life.
Scammers impersonate conveyancers or real estate agents and give false account numbers to redirect payments.
Australia Real Estate and Construction
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According to the latest figures from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, in 2022 Australians lost more than $3 billion to scammers, including losses due to payment redirection scams – and that is only the losses that were reported to the ACCC.

How common are payment redirection scams?

As house prices soar, scammers are employing increasingly sophisticated methods to intercept electronic money transfers.

Hacks and scams redirecting payments that were intended for conveyancers to purchase new homes account for $225 million of those losses.

The ACCC's Scamwatch receives two reports a week on average of such payment redirection scams, also referred to as business email compromise scams, linked to real estate transactions.

Tragic cases highlighted in the media include a homebuyer who unwittingly sent $284,000 to the scammer's account after the email chain with his conveyancer was hacked, and a young couple who lost their $25,000 house deposit to a property scam. (Please see Australia's overheated property market has become a target for hackers — and they're scamming millions, ABC News, 24 April 2022.)

Steps to avoid a payment redirection scam

Scammers are increasingly skilled at hacking email accounts to impersonate conveyancers or real estate agents, and giving false account numbers to divert the money intended for home deposits or business payments.

Even if you have been dealing with the conveyancer for some time, check it is the correct email address and account number. Never just hit "reply" or click on the links within an email. Some hackers have succeeded in breaking into an email conversation by changing just one letter in the email address.

Never call the phone number given in a suspect email. Use a phone number you received independently of the latest email and talk to the person you have been dealing with previously. Double check the account number before sending money.

If you get an email that creates a sense of urgency, don't rush. First check that the email is genuine. Talk to the company, not using the phone number in the email, but on a number you obtained earlier. If the email tells you to change payment details, don't respond until you have spoken to the company involved.

Stacks Law Firm always advises its clients to protect themselves against hackers who break into email accounts and try to trick people into sending money to the scammer's account.

Stacks Law Firm attaches a warning about potential scams to emails it sends to clients:

Money Transfer Precautions: Scams involving money transfers, fake email accounts and false or tampered invoices are increasingly common. For your protection, we recommend you ALWAYS verify our bank account details by phoning us before making money transfers to us.

Next steps if you discover a payment redirection scam

If you have been the victim of a scam, contact your bank as soon as possible. The bank may be able to stop the transfer if notified within three days of the payment.

Get legal advice if you are unsatisfied with your bank's reaction. This is one of the advantages of dealing with a conveyancer who works within a law firm.

The free national cyber support service IDCARE can help victims to make a plan to limit the damage. The new National Anti-Scam Centre is coordinating action to combat scammers.

The ACCC has many resources available to educate Australians on how to avoid scams and how you can best protect yourself. (Please see Scams.)

Taylor Kennedy
Criminal law
Stacks Law Firm

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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