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Property lawyers are warning of a heightened threat of cyber fraud to law firms and clients as high-value property transactions are increasingly conducted online via e-conveyancing.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released its annual report on national scam activity in April and highlighted that the number of scams reported to Scamwatch in 2018 had increased dramatically in recent years – up 765 per cent since 2009. Australian businesses lost more than $107 million to scammers in 2018, with email “phishing” scams the most common type of scams reported.

Although previously the telephone was the most-used method for scammers to connect with victims, the report said modern scammers preferred targeting victims via email (causing losses of $25.3 million in 2018), text message ($2.1 million), or social media ($15.7 million).

InfoTrack CEO John Ahern (pictured) said the cyber scams presented a serious threat to property lawyers, who are increasingly exchanging online via e-conveyancing. Ahern and InfoTrack recently launched a software called “Securexchange” to protect lawyers and their clients from hackers using e-conveyancing.

“We’re witnessing how vulnerable the property industry has become to cyber fraud, due to the high-value nature of online property transactions,” said Ahern.

In 2018, Consumer Affairs Victoria reported that several Victorian property buyers lost more than $200,000 to a hacking scam targeting the email accounts of real estate agents. A Ray White agency in Brisbane also landed in court after accidently sending $90,000 worth of client deposit proceeds to a scammer.