We’re hearing more and more stories amongst our local community of large sums of money – sometimes several hundreds of thousands of dollars – being transferred to scammers, instead of the intended recipient. Often, the intended recipient’s email is hacked and the BSB and account number are altered to direct funds to the account of the hacker.

On the surface, the payment instructions look legitimate. The fraudsters cleverly use the business logo and graphics, email signatures, branded invoices. Even the tone and language used in the email message itself is convincing. There may be no obvious warning signs.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) received a staggering 11,000 reports of hoax invoices in 2019 and many more reports of scammers hacking business email accounts.

When transferring significant sums of money, there are some simple steps you can take to avoid fraudulent transfers.

    • Never act on emailed instructions alone. Seek a second means of verifying the account details. Make a phone call to the intended recipient to get verbal confirmation of the BSB, account number and account name.
    • Make an initial, small ‘test’ deposit. For example, transfer $20, then ask the receiver to confirm that the money has landed in their account. Transfer the balance only once the initial test deposit has been received. Be mindful that you allow sufficient time to meet the due-by date.
    • Be especially wary if the account details change from one payment to the next. For example, if you make a deposit payment, and then receive an email advising of different account details for the balance payment, it’s important to verify the new account details.

    It can be very difficult to recover money lost through hoax billing, and prevention is better than cure. If you’ve been the victim of a scam, contact your bank as soon as possible.

    Visit Scamwatch for more information on how to recognise, avoid and report scams.

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