How to protect yourself from real estate scams

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Last year Australians were swindled out of $4.3 million dollars through real estate scams and they’re on the rise. 

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch stated they receive an average of two reports a week of payment redirection scams in real estate. So, how can you secure the Australian dream of owning a home and protect your hard earned money from these cybercriminals? 

We unpack why scammers are targeting the real estate industry, which scams to look out for and how to protect yourself from falling victim to a scammer’s manipulations.

What does a real estate scam look like?

The most common tactic used by scammers is known as ‘payment redirection’. It comes under the ‘business email compromise’ category where criminals will either hack an email account or impersonate a business employee via a fraudulent email address (typically a conveyancer, real estate, solicitor, broker’s agent or bank employee). 

It’s common during the settlement phase when highly protected, large sums of money are being exchanged from prospective buyers to trust accounts. As the scammers impersonate your real estate contact, they will request upcoming payments be redirected using their own fraudulent bank details. Once the money is sent, it’s extremely hard to get it back.

Why are scammers targeting real estate?

The nature of real estate transactions involves many parties and moving parts which can be hard to keep track of, especially if you’re a first home buyer. 

In an effort to streamline the process, the industry has come to rely on online methods such as emails as their main form of communication and record keeping. Without the proper cybersecurity measures in place, the scammers have seeped through the cracks and taken full advantage of Australia’s booming $10 trillion property market.

How to avoid real estate scams

In response to the rise in real estate scams, the industry is on high alert and taking action to prevent it happening to their clients, and educating them on what to do if one lands in their inbox.

The ACCC has the following tips:

  • Always check account details are correct by calling the person you’re paying via a number you’ve sourced yourself
  • Check the sender’s email address for any odd mistakes or inconsistencies and compare it to other emails sent from the same company or employee
  • If you receive an email request that’s urgent, don’t rush. Take your time, get in touch with another party within the business to confirm.
  • If you receive a request to change payment details, always check with the company using contact details you’ve previously sourced, rather than the details provided in that email.
  • If you’ve been a victim of a scam, contact your bank as soon as possible (ideally within three days).
  • Implement two-factor authentication for your email account to create an additional barrier against scammers

If you’re in the process of buying a property and concerned about the risks of scammers, the experienced team at Impero Conveyancing can help you securely and confidently navigate your home buying experience.

Start the conversation today by calling us on (02) 4910 0522.

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