Industry experts are warning the biggest issue to face real estate agents in 2018 could be the rising spectre of cybercrime, with increasingly sophisticated scams and methods siphoning millions from Queensland real estate agencies and their clients.
Legal insurance experts Lexon alerted the REIQ late last year to growing incidences of cybercrime with criminals targeting conveyancers as a way into the transaction and from there targeting conveyancers and real estate agencies as a way into the transaction.
“We’ve seen a sharp rise in these types of incidences,” Lexon legal risk analyst David Durham said.
“We have had several “intercepted payment” communication cases recently where the hackers have obtained details of the transaction.
“In one recent case, the agent was hacked, and that was the access point used to send an impersonated email from the agent to the buyer. The email said: ‘Please pay $80k deposit. Trust account currently being audited – can’t use during audit period. Use alternative trust account here:’,” Mr Durham said.
Aon Risk Solutions Client Relationship Manager Peter Lynch said with recent amendments to the Privacy Act coming into effect from this month (February 2018) if an agency was breached it could no longer remain a secret.
“Any business with an annual turnover of more than $3 million a year – which will be a significant number of real estate businesses – will be compelled to report data breaches within 30 days to the Privacy Commissioner (the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner),” Mr Lynch said.
“And then they have to notify all of their clients. This then damages reputations and we have seen that once a business has been breached, customers take their business elsewhere.
“Trust is the only real currency and this is especially true of the relationship between a real estate agent and their client,” he said.
The REIQ is urging all members to review cybersecurity measures and if in doubt get in touch with Aon on 1300 734 274 to discuss how you reduce your cyber risk.