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Hackers don’t go on holiday

30 November 2018

Recent reports of an increase in email hacking scams has prompted the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to warn businesses of all sizes not to let their guard down over the upcoming holiday season.

Fair Trading Executive Director Brian Bauer said a high-profile case involving a Queensland real estate agent being tricked into sending a large sum of money to a scammer’s bank account showed that emails could not always be taken at face value.

“The OFT is urging real estate agencies to review their internal processes to ensure there is a two-factor check in place for communications involving large sums of money,” Mr Bauer said.

“For example, we recommend agents not act on an email claiming to be from a client which asks for bank account changes until they have followed up with the client by phone.

“This type of sophisticated email compromise scam can affect any type of business, large or small.

“All businesses should be aware that scammers have the ability to hack into a business’s email accounts, so they should keep their IT security up-to-date at all times.”

Mr Bauer said another common type of scam targeting businesses and even government agencies were false billing scams, where fraudsters sent offices fake but very realistic looking invoices asking for payment.

“According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, over $2.7 million was scammed from businesses last year using false bills,” he said.

“The best way to arm yourself against scams is to be aware they are out there, and make sure your staff are on the lookout as well.

“Don’t let the relaxed atmosphere of the holidays lull you into a false sense of security.

“If you notice the contact or bank details of a regular supplier or customer have changed, make sure you contact them, using the details you have on record, to confirm the change.”

Mr Bauer said more information on common scams and advice on how to avoid them was available at www.qld.gov.au/fairtrading.