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How a woman lost a whopping $732,000 by responding to one email

How a woman lost a whopping $732,000 by responding to one email 2

How a woman lost a whopping $732,000 after responding to just one email and ruined her deal for a new home

  • A woman lost her $732,000 house deposit by clicking on a scam email 
  • The email was a ‘payment redirection scam’ with a false bank account number  
  • Scammers had intercepted emails and then mocked up fake documents 
  • She sent them cash instead of transferring the money to her settlement agent 

A frightening new scam has seen a property buyer lose $732,000 after she opened the wrong email. 

The woman from Western Australia was finalising the purchase of a new house in Beaconsfield in Perth’s south last month when she opened a message from her settlement agent. 

But the email was actually an authentic-looking fake which asked her to deposit the cash into a bank account that was owned by shady online thieves. 

The con is known as a ‘payment-redirection’ scam in which communications are intercepted and then fake documents sent between parties to hijack financial transactions.   

A 'payment redirection' scam resulted in a woman losing her $732,000 house deposit after she clicked on the wrong email (stock image)

A ‘payment redirection’ scam resulted in a woman losing her $732,000 house deposit after she clicked on the wrong email (stock image)

The scam usually targets transfers of large amounts such as property purchases or business deals. 

The WA woman only discovered she had been duped after the real settlement agent sent an email reminding her to send through payment before a final property inspection. 

At that point she had already transferred the $732,000, leading to the scam being uncovered. 

Investigators worked out the scammers had intercepted emails between her and the property agents and then mocked up fake documents using the company’s logo but including their own account number. 

The email had been sent from a hotmail address using the name of the company. 

In WA alone, nine victims have reported losing a total of $1,015,129 in the first four months of 2022, this amount included.

The ACCC said the amount lost to payment redirection scams across Australia in 2020 was about $128million. 

WA Consumer Protection Executive Director Trish Blake urged people to be suspicious of any email asking for a payment of money or advising of a change in bank account details to where payments are sent.

‘These scams involve hacking into someone’s email account or computer system but it can be difficult to determine exactly where the hack has occurred,’ Ms Blake said.

‘Victims who may have lost their home deposit that they have been saving for many years or it could be a business doing it tough.

‘The hackers may have guessed the password or installed spyware after recipients clicked on attachments or links in scam emails.’

The ACCC have listed a number of ways fake or scam emails can be spotted (stock image)

The ACCC have listed a number of ways fake or scam emails can be spotted (stock image) 

She said choosing difficult passwords or changing them regularly is advised, as is avoiding opening suspicious links or attachments.

‘We suspect another exposure may be the use of unsecured WiFi connections which may provide scammers with a window of opportunity to break in.

‘Especially with many people working from home at the moment, they need to ensure that a secured network is being used and they have up-to-date virus protection software.’

HOW TO SPOT A PAYMENT REDIRECTION SCAM 

Look at the domain name of emails and whether they are from a generic service such as Hotmail or Gmail.

If transferring large amounts of money, double check account numbers by phoning the business.

Documents that feign being urgent could be used to ensure they are not looked at in detail. 

If documents use a generic greeting instead of addressing you directly they could be suspicious. 

Poor spelling or grammar and evidence of cutting and pasting text and logos could be obvious. 

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