property scam

PHOTO: Antonia Mercorella from the Real Estate Institute of Queensland. FILE

  • Brisbane couple downsized, scammers ripped them off during settlement
  • Hackers sent fake email to agency asking for $52k payment to unknown account
  • Warnings that anyone doing property transactions should be vigilant with email

Fergs Coffee

An Australian couple was duped out of tens of thousands of dollars by scammers who hacked their email during a property settlement.

Queenslanders Margaret and Patrick Hailey downsized to a new home in September 2021, but lost $52,757 when hackers sent an email in their name with instructions for a payment.

The scam happened as cyber security experts warn that ‘all parties’ involved in any property transaction – including buying and even renting – need to be aware of scam emails.

Queenslanders Margaret and Patrick Hailey downsized to a new home in September 2021, but lost $52,757 when scammers sent an email in their name with instructions for a payment

Queenslanders Margaret and Patrick Hailey downsized to a new home in September 2021, but lost $52,757 when scammers sent an email in their name with instructions for a payment

The couple had no knowledge of the scam transaction, the recipient or the dodgy email until Mrs Hailey's daughter told them they were 'missing money' (pictured, the new home the Haileys bought which sparked the scam email)

The couple had no knowledge of the scam transaction, the recipient or the dodgy email until Mrs Hailey’s daughter told them they were ‘missing money’ (pictured, the new home the Haileys bought which sparked the scam email)

As the email appeared to be from Mr Hailey, the agency paid the $52,757 to the scammer’s account, which was unrelated to the settlement.

Mr Hailey doesn’t use email and didn’t send it.

The couple had no knowledge of the email, the recipient or the transaction until Mrs Hailey’s daughter told them they were ‘missing money’.

‘I said where’s my money? And [the agency] said “no idea”, Mrs Hailey said.

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They couple described being ripped off as ‘stressful’ and  ‘absolutely horrendous’.

The most likely explanation is that hackers intercepted key details about the property settlement and sent an email at a crucial time in the process asking for payment.

They had decided to sell their beloved family home after suffering health issues.

Mrs Hailey battled against both breast and stomach cancer – which saw her entire stomach removed – while Mr Hailey underwent a kidney transplant that’s left him debilitated.

Local police from Browns Plains took on the case, bringing in other cyber security experts to tackle the sophisticated fraud.

After six months, bank fraud teams managed to get the fake transaction reversed and refunded the relieved Haileys their money.

Their real estate agent said he had received an email from Mr Hailey requesting the large sum be transferred to an ANZ bank account

Their real estate agent said he had received an email from Mr Hailey requesting the large sum be transferred to an ANZ bank account

Antonia Mercorella from the Real Estate Institute of Queensland said cybercrime was a 'very significant issue' for the industry including for conveyancing lawyers

Antonia Mercorella from the Real Estate Institute of Queensland said cybercrime was a ‘very significant issue’ for the industry including for conveyancing lawyers

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