WA builder and clients caught up in payment interception scam

Two clients of a WA builder have transferred a total of $72,000 to scammers believing they were paying instalments towards the construction of their homes.

The two payments of $38,000 and $34,000 were made when the consumers received emails purporting to be from their builder requesting the payments be made to a different bank account.

The emails were fake and the consumers are now attempting to recover the lost funds from their banks.

Building and Energy and Consumer Protection have urged both businesses and consumers to be cautious when they get emails that advise of a change of bank account.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said a number of WA businesses, their contractors and clients have fallen victim to these interception and false billing scams.

“Many industries are targeted in this type of scam, but particularly in areas where large amounts of money are being transferred between consumers and businesses such as real estate and settlement agents, and now the building industry,” Mr Hillyard said.

“Often the scammers gain access to the email communications between a business and its clients by hacking into email accounts or sending scam emails with links or attachments which, when clicked or opened, give the scammers access.

“Email addresses can also be ‘spoofed’ so they look like they are coming from the person or company you are dealing with.

“The emails look professional and authentic, so they are difficult to detect as fake. So our advice is that anyone who is transferring funds and receives a change of bank account notification to take the time to confirm it directly by calling the company or person they are dealing with. A few minutes on the phone could prevent a lot of financial misery later.”

Building Commissioner Ken Bowron has urged those operating in the WA building industry to be vigilant and thwart these stealing attempts.

“Every builder and contractor should have procedures in place to prevent scammers gaining access to email accounts by training staff not to open suspicious emails containing attachments or links,” Mr Bowron said.

“Consider getting advice from a cyber-security consultant to ensure all measures are in place, including updated virus protection and firewalls, to prevent incursions into computer systems and advise clients to confirm by phone if they receive any advice to make payments to another bank account, before transferring the funds.

“A variation of this scam is when false invoices are sent, or a scammer purporting to be a contractor can also advise the building company to pay the invoice to a different account. Ensure the details are correct by conducting a verification that is independent of what could be a scam email, so don’t just hit reply.”

Information and advice on scams is available on the WA ScamNet website www.scamnet.wa.gov.au. Enquiries can be made to Consumer Protection by email consumer@dmirs.wa.gov.au or by calling 1300 30 40 54.

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Note: Building and Energy (a division within the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety) was formed in January 2018 by the amalgamation of the Building Commission and EnergySafety.

Media contact:

Alan Hynd – 08 6552 9248 / 0429 078 791 / alan.hynd@dmirs.wa.gov.au

Building Commission / Consumer Protection
Media release
17 Jan 2019

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