Two customers of a building firm have unwittingly made payments worth over $70,000 to internet scammers following a fake email purporting to be from the company, a consumer protection advocate has warned, prompting a new warning over invoice scams.
The two payments, one of $38,000 and another of $34,000, were made by two clients of an unnamed WA builder, who believed they were paying instalments on the construction of their new homes.
It followed an email purporting to be from the builder, requesting that future instalments be paid into a different bank account.
Western Australia’s Commissioner for Consumer Protection, David Hillyard (pictured), warned that a number of businesses, their contractors and clients in the state have fallen victim to these interception scams — particularly those where large volumes of money are changing hands.
Another case in point was the Perth car dealership that lost $65,000 in September last year.
“Many industries are targeted in this type of scam, but particularly in areas where large amounts of money are being transferred between consumers and businesses such as real estate and settlement agents, and now the building industry,” Mr Hillyard said.
“Often the scammers gain access to the email communications between a business and its clients by hacking into email accounts or sending scam emails with links or attachments which, when clicked or opened, give the scammers access.”
He warned that such emails often look authentic, making them difficult to detect.
“Our advice is that anyone who is transferring funds and receives a change of bank account notification, to take the time to confirm it directly by calling the company or person they are dealing with,” Mr Hillyard said.
“A few minutes on the phone could prevent a lot of financial misery later.”
The affected individuals are attempting to recoup the funds from their banks.
Business email compromise scams were also the subject of an urgent warning from the ATO in November, with one SME conned out of more than $300,000.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.