Protecting trust accounts from scams - Real estate industry bulletin 265
31 May 2023
WA ScamNet has received reports of a scam that has successfully targeted one Western Australian real estate agent and two settlement agents.
- Real estate agent lost $43,080 and two settlement agents lost a combined $64,468.
- Victims tricked into transferring trust account funds by scammers posing as their bank.
- Agents and businesses urged to not give out access codes over the phone.
The victims received a phone call from scammers posing as NAB and were told a recent payment they had made from their trust account had been blocked as it appeared suspicious, or hadn’t gone through and the account needed to be reset.
The scammers were equipped with information about the transactions that made the phone call seem credible.
To ‘unblock the payment’ or ‘reset the account’, a code was sent to the victims who then gave the code to the scammers, allowing the scammers to transfer payments out of the trust accounts.
How you can protect your trust accounts from scams
Be on alert with any phone call from your bank or financial institution as it can in fact be a scam attempt. If you suspect it is a scam call, follow these simple actions, which can help save you from losing thousands of dollars:
- If you receive a phone call from your bank or financial institution, end the call and call back on a phone number you obtained from a trusted source in order to verify the contact.
- Never provide a verification code to someone over the phone - your bank will NEVER ask for a verification code over the phone and anyone who asks you to provide this is almost definitely a scammer.
- Set up two-factor authentication to make it harder for scammers to access your accounts.
You are liable for funds held in your trust accounts. You are also required to report unauthorised transactions to the Commissioner for Consumer Protection.
You should ensure your professional indemnity insurance is sufficient to compensate for losses from scam activity as you are responsible to fully reimburse relevant beneficiaries any funds lost due to scam activity.
If you think you have lost money to a scam, immediately call your bank to see if the payment can be retrieved and report it to WA ScamNet by calling 1300 30 40 54 or complete a scam report on the website.
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