A New South Wales couple lost almost $275,000 in an elaborate scam after receiving an email asking them to settle their first home.
Simon Elvins and his wife had spent 10 years saving for their first home and were delighted after purchasing a property in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales.
Mr Elvins received an email from someone he thought was his conveyancer, which detailed the couple’s house purchase.
The email contained the correct details of the new property and also asked the couple to pay $274,311.57 to finalize the upcoming settlement.
Details of the trust account for the payment were also included, including BSB and an account name matching the conveyancing company Mr Elvins had hired.
Simon Elvins (pictured) and his wife lost almost $270,000 after receiving an invoice scam email advising him to pay the upcoming settlement on their first home.
Mr Elvin sent two transactions because the amount was too large to transfer in one go and waited for a response from his transfer agent.
However, having received no response, he emailed his conveyancing agent and estate agent who informed him that they had never received the settlement payment and gave him the correct account details.
“Everything looked good. So I paid it in two amounts because the amount was too large to pay in one go,” Mr. Elvin said.
“And I thought, ‘This story is not the same as the last one. Maybe they have two accounts. “…The realization that we had been scammed became very clear.
After realizing he had been scammed, Mr Elvin immediately contacted Westpac, who then contacted NAB, which was the bank of the fraudsters’ account.
However, it had already been a week since the second transfer and almost all of Mr Elvin’s money was gone, with the couple only receiving $270.72 in return.
Mr Elvin believes the fraudsters hacked into the carrier’s email to create the fraudulent invoice.
Data from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch shows that invoice scams are on the rise in Australia.
The bill scam is focused on big purchases including renovations, properties and cars, with Australians losing an estimated $23 million between January and September this year.
Australians reported 28,617 fake invoice scams during the same period, an increase of 95 per cent from the previous year.
Consumer advocates are calling on banks to introduce a “beneficiary confirmation” policy to prevent hackers from issuing fake invoices.
After transferring the amount, he waited for a response from his transfer agent. However, having received no response, he emailed his conveyancing agent and estate agent who informed him they had never received the settlement payment.
In Australia, under the Bulk Electronic Clearing System (BECS), money is transferred regardless of whether the correct account name is used or not.
Tom Abourizk, policy manager at the Consumer Action Law Center, said banks don’t check whether the account name matches the account number, even though customers are asked to fill out both pieces of information.
Some banks have started to introduce their own systems to prevent invoice scams.
This year, Commonwealth Bank introduced NameCheck, a policy that highlights differences between account details and names.
Westpac did not comment on the Elvins’ case, but said the bank detected 60 per cent of scams.
“Where funds cannot be recovered, repayment is considered on a case-by-case basis taking into account a range of factors,” Westpac said.
Mr. Elvin and his wife were able to move into their home without losing their $100,000 deposit.
Australians reported 28,617 false invoices between January and September 2023, resulting in a loss of approximately $23 million, an increase of 95% compared to the same period last year.
However, they had to take out mortgage insurance from the lender and increase their mortgage, resulting in additional monthly repayments of $2,000.
Australians are urged to call a business or person requesting money to check their bank details match before making a payment to avoid being scammed.
Customers are also advised to use the PayID transfer system as it reveals the name of the bank account holder.
ScamWatch advises those who think they have been scammed to contact their bank, report the scam to the ACCC and inform the relevant website of the scammer’s name and profile details.