According to Fairfax Media reporting:
MasterChef finalist Dani Venn woke to a housing nightmare on Monday when it was confirmed $250,000 from the settlement of her semi-rural property on the outskirts of Melbourne was stolen after her conveyancer’s account was hacked.
Unbeknown to Ms Venn and her conveyancer, Sargeants Knox Conveyancing, the proceeds of the sale were transferred to a fraudster’s bank account after hackers accessed the conveyancer’s electronic property transfer account and added themselves as another user.
The hackers broke into the conveyancing firms’ email accounts, accessed their mail from PEXA and set up new user accounts.
They then intercepted emails from PEXA that notify another account had been added, leaving the conveyancers vulnerable to ghost users who can change bank details during the settlement process, enabling them to fleece home owners.
Both PEXA and the CBA told Ms Venn they were not responsible or liable for the loss.
PEXA’s Acting CEO James Ruddock issued a statement in response to the theft, which included:
Has the PEXA system been hacked?
No, the PEXA system has not been hacked.
On Monday 18 June, at approximately 5pm, PEXA was made aware of a fraudulent situation where a practitioner’s email account was compromised.
In this instance, an unknown party intercepted a change-in-password email sent from the PEXA platform which in turn allowed this person to access the Subscriber’s PEXA account. As a result, the destination account details in the settlement schedule were fraudulently changed.
Could this happen in paper?
Email interception isn’t new and happens across a range of industries with paper property transactions being no exception. Unfortunately, there has been a couple of instances of this occurring over the past couple of years where emails have been intercepted and vendors requested to send funds to fictitious accounts operating under the guise of the settlement agent.
What is PEXA doing to make sure this doesn’t happen again?
While the PEXA platform itself was not compromised, PEXA is working closely with all parties, including the relevant authorities to assist in every possible way.
The PEXA security team is currently undertaking detailed monitoring of all Workspace activity, checking for similar scenarios where passwords have been re-set in close succession among other things which may be considered ‘unusual’ behaviour.
PEXA is also in the process of adding additional security measures. More information will be provided on these initiatives in the near future.