Beware of Online Scammers

The importance of cyber security has become a modern day reality that must be taken seriously.  An article reported recently by the media regarding ex NRL player Ben Elias is a timely reminder of the necessity to be extra vigilant when it comes to transferring money electronically.  You must verify bank account details by a voice call and have the number read back to you before transferring funds.  Property transactions are of particular risk as hackers become more sophisticated in their methods and target this area.

People across Australia have lost money when hackers have impersonated a law practice or another party involved in a legal matter by altering electronic communications including email, fax, social media, text, instant messaging, applications, file sharing and documents including PDF or Word documents.

This is exactly what happened to Ben Elias.  In what Mr Elias thought was a normal email discussion with his lawyer regarding a property transaction he was asked to deposit a sum of over $800,000 into a nominated account for settlement.  A normal request for this sort and size of transaction. The language, letterhead, email signature and look of the exchange was exactly like previous correspondence he had had with his lawyer.  Mr Elias transferred the money and then (luckily) called his lawyer to confirm he had received.  The lawyer had no record of the deposit and on confirming the bank details over the phone it was apparent that they had been sent to another account and that the correspondence was fake.

Fortunately for Mr Elias and his property development company this story ended well and his bank’s cyber security team were able to act quickly and were able to retrieve the funds just before they disappeared forever to an overseas account.

At SPM Law we have processes in place to ensure the safety of our client’s funds.  It is critical that these steps are followed to reduce this risk and we advise clients in writing from the very outset of their matter that if they are involved in a transfer of funds what our expectations are to help to reduce the risk of such loss.

SPM Law will not transfer money out of our practice until we are able to verify any bank account by a voice call to confirm those details (by reading out and reading back the account and BSB numbers or other specific payment details where applicable, e.g. if not a bank account).

In addition, SPM Law will contact the sender to check legitimacy before we open attachments, or click on hyperlinks or download buttons in unexpected emails; and contact relevant sender immediately if in any doubt about emails or any other electronic communications that appear to have come from clients and associated parties to the matter.

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