Scam prevention and changes to mutual recognition laws - Settlement industry bulletin 101

This publication is for: 
Licence holdersProperty industry

21 January 2021

In this issue:

  • Recent impersonation scams affecting the property industry
  • Changes to mutual recognition laws

Impersonation scams affecting the property industry

Consumer Protection has recently become aware of the re-emergence of an online impersonation scam that affects the property industry.

Payment redirection scam

Payment redirection scams, such as the one outlined in our recent media statement, stem from a larger cybercrime referred to as Business Email Compromise where cybercriminals impersonate a business to trick people into transferring money or sensitive information. Scammers do this by gaining remote access to an email account or using an email address that appears legitimate and almost identical to the trusted business email address. The scammer sends what appears to be a legitimate email request for sensitive information or payment to a new updated bank account.

Reduce the risk of these impersonation scams

It is important for agencies to establish secure practices that reduce a cybercriminal’s ability to intercept communications and financial transactions for their own financial gain.

To manage the risk of a payment redirection scam, consider:

  • Using up-to-date antivirus software to regularly scan your computer and mobile devices for malware.
  • Protecting your email, accounting and other systems with two factor authentication.
  • Monitoring your network, accounts and communication channels for any suspicious activity.
  • Backing up your business data offsite and offline.
  • Educating your staff and clients about the importance of being aware of hackers, scams and cybercriminal activity that could affect your business.
  • Using a business grade hosted email service that includes quality filtering to block dangerous emails, spam, phishing and malicious content or attachments.
  • Providing your clients with your agency’s payment details when completing the appointment to act or purchase documents.
  • Alternative options to receiving payments, such as setting up a PayID account with your financial institution using your ABN.
  • Establishing verification processes for clients – such as advising them that bank accounts will not change during their transaction; or that notification of changes will not occur by email; or providing details of the agency’s nominated individual they can telephone or see in person to check any requests received.
  • When responding to an email, use the forward button instead of reply and manually type the email address previously provided.

We encourage agencies to obtain cyber insurance that adequately protects their business from internet-based risks, such as impersonation scams.

Fraud guidance notes under review

We are currently reviewing the cause and effect of scams and fraud that affect the property industry. Part of this review will include updating our guidance notes, materials and advice to you. We will provide updated information when it is available.

Be proactive and stay informed

There are a number of online resources available to help you safeguard your data and processes.

The following sites offer scam alert subscriptions to keep you informed:

You can have your say on changes to the mutual recognition laws

The Australian Government is seeking input on draft laws to enable automatic mutual recognition (AMR) of registered occupations, such as settlement agents, across states and territories.

AMR aims to boost workforce mobility by allowing someone who is licensed or registered in one jurisdiction to be considered registered to perform the same job elsewhere, without the need for detailed application processes or additional registration fees.

You can have your say on the changes to the Mutual Recognition Act 1992 (Cth) by Friday 12 February 2021.

More information on draft changes and how to submit a response is available on the Occupational Mobility consultation webpage.

Consumer Protection
Last updated 21 Jan 2021

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