A Gold Coast couple has been left devastated after losing nearly $40,000 at the hands of a “cunning” email scammer posing as a real estate agent.
Mitch Wilson and Penny Davies believed they were just following their agent’s advice when they transferred their house deposit to a bank account.
They had received an email from what appeared to be the email address of a Sold Street estate agent.
“It plays over and over in my head all the time,” Davies said.
“We received an email from the real estate agent that we had been dealing with, from his email account, saying that in light of the contract, please pay money to this account,” Wilson told 9News.
The couple transferred $39,000 to the bank account and didn’t think about it again until the agent contacted them a few days later to ask where the money was.
“We went back and forth, exchanging screenshots and emails from his and ours, and what was obvious is that the money didn’t go where it was supposed to go, which was his account,” Wilson said.
“(It ended up) in a scammer’s account and then overseas to a crypto account.”
Police refer to it as an email compromise scam whereby scammers infiltrate an email account and send emails to victims, making it very difficult to discern that it is a scam.
“These people with these skills, they are very cunning, they are very calculated,” Ian Wells of the Queensland Police Service Cybercrime Group told 9News.
When a business owner sends an invoice, hackers change bank account numbers for payments and then send the invoice to the unsuspecting customer.
Mummy blogger Constance Hall has also fallen victim to the cruel scam.
She told news.com.au last month that she felt “stupid” after losing thousands of dollars to scammers.
She believed she was paying a deposit on a rental property when she transferred money through a link sent by the real estate agency that managed the property.
When he contacted his bank, he was told that since he had authorized the transaction, the chance of getting the money back was slim and that he should report it to the police.
His bank recovered only $7.57.
“Having everything stolen from me in an instant … felt incredibly unfair,” he said.
Police advise homebuyers to always contact businesses first to verify bank account numbers when paying bills online.
If a scam is discovered, contact the bank as soon as possible to report the fraudulent transaction.
The Australian Cyber Security Center advises affected businesses to report the incident at cyber.gov.au/acsc/report/ and alert other employees and customers.
Businesses should also report the breach to their email service provider, for example, Gmail or Microsoft Outlook.