Recently a retired couple have been left $53,000 out of pocket after they made payment to a builder for their first instalment due under their build contract. 

Unfortunately, unbeknown to them, a third party had intercepted the bank account details sent by the builder and altered these before they reached the couple.  The couple then relied on these account details when attending to their payment.  These funds were unable to be recovered.

Real Estate Agents and Lawyers (among others, such as builders in the example above) are being targeted by a sophisticated “invoice scam”.  Scammers are hacking into invoice PDFs attached to emails and modifying the company/recipient’s bank account details to show their own bank account numbers.  An invoice which appears legitimate is then being sent out to clients by the scammers with neither party (the lawyer/agent/builder involved or the client) being any the wiser.

Hackers are looking for large cash amounts and seem to be targeting deposits for property purchases, build contracts, and relationship property settlements.  This “invoice scam” is a significant increase in sophistication for fraudsters and it will be necessary to take steps to avoid falling victim to them.

It is therefore recommended that when receiving any account details by email to use further verification techniques such as phoning the business you received the account details from (using the phone number you have for them rather than a number at the bottom of an email) and asking them to confirm the bank account details over the phone.

This verification processes will be important way of moving forward as recovering funds accidentally paid to one of these fraudsters’ bank accounts will be very difficult, if not impossible.    

 

Laurie Pallett
Senior Registered Legal Executive
Wellington