The REINSW member, who did not want to be named whilst police investigations were ongoing, explained: “The request came from the same email address we had on our records for the landlord, and so our bookkeeper replied asking them to fill in a request form, including their signatures, before we could update it.
“Once they returned this, we checked their signatures against our management agency papers and they matched. Even the police who we later showed said it was a good forgery.
“Our protocol has always been that changes to bank details must be in writing, but we are now also making phone calls to the landlord.”
REINSW’s Property Management Chapter Committee will be discussing best practice measures to stop this at its next meeting.
Cost of cyber crime
Professional indemnity insurer Realcover says with every real estate business using digital technology, agencies could fall victim to a hack.
One agency in Broome in Western Australia had $50,000 stolen by cyber fraudsters, who gained access to their online banking system after a compromised email installed malicious software.
As a result of this fraud, the WA Consumer Protection Commissioner recommended that real estate and settlement agents manually input bank account details of clients when making electronic bank payments, rather than relying on the accuracy of details in pre-entered lists.
Realcover Claims and Compliance Manager, Nancy Rainbird said: “Some professional indemnity insurance policies offer limited cover against cyber crime.
“There are also stand-alone cyber insurance policies available in the market. As this is a developing exposure, due to the rapid rate at which technology is developing, each agency should seek advice from an insurance advisor and consider which policy best suits their needs based on the protection they have in place.”
The Australian Government has said cyber security is one of its security priorities and launched a Cyber Security Strategy, on which it will spend $230 million on a range of measures.