Barely a month goes by without reports of a property scam making the news, including the recent example of a Western Australian real estate agency that had more than $300,000 of buyers’ money stolen from its trust account.

What these scams have in common is that criminals have developed incredibly sophisticated methods of tricking members of the public.

In this instance, the criminal somehow discovered some of the account’s recent transactions, and then used this information to win the real estate agency’s trust

“The victim received a phone call from scammers posing as their bank and was asked to verify some recent transactions on the account,” according to WA Consumer Protection. “The scammers then requested remote access to the computer via a software the victim was asked to download and then handed a remote access code over to the scammers.”

The reason property is such a popular target for criminals is because large sums of money are involved.

Apart from the type of scam mentioned above, criminals have also been known to hack into a real estate agency’s email system and tell the buyer to transfer money to their bank account rather than the agency’s.

How to protect yourself

According to the federal government’s Scamwatch service, common signs of scam activity include:

  • You get sent messages that contain links – which may take you to fake websites that criminals use to steal your personal information
  • You’re pressured to act quickly – depriving you of the opportunity to think things through
  • You’re asked to pay in cryptocurrency – something legitimate businesses would never request

You should never give money or personal information to anyone if you have any doubts, according to Scamwatch. Also, you should never click a link in a message; instead, you should contact organisations using contact information through their official website or secure apps.

Freya Southwell is a property lawyer and principal of Sutton Laurence King Lawyers.

Need expert advice on property law in Victoria? Contact Sutton Laurence King Lawyers today on 03 9070 9810 or  for help.