Property Exchange Australia (PEXA) is tackling cyber-crime head-on with the launch of its new app – PEXA Key – which provides a safe channel for home sellers to provide bank details to their property lawyer or conveyancer in completing their property settlement.

With thousands of victims falling prey to email phishing scams each year and nearly half of all companies Australia-wide hit by cyber-crime[1], PEXA Key stands to save homebuyers and sellers millions of dollars in fraudulently misappropriated funds.

“Security is paramount for our members and to us,” PEXA CEO Marcus Price said. “It would be remiss of us to not try and help solve an issue which is becoming more and more prevalent in our industry. To be able to offer this technology to property lawyers, conveyancers and their customers and deliver a much a safer means of exchanging bank details is something we’re incredibly proud of”.

The Cyber Security Review, led by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, found that cybercrime is costing the Australian economy up to $1 billion annually in direct costs alone.

In addition, the ACC reported that last year Australian businesses lost over $60 million to email scams.

Although email is a prominent and cost-effective tool, there are vulnerabilities associated with emailing sensitive information due to the risk of it being intercepted and changed by a third party. This occurrence can result in significant financial loss and trauma for a buyer or seller.

PEXA Key aims to eliminate this risk by providing a secure communication channel for sharing bank details, guaranteed[2]. Once sellers enter their bank details into PEXA Key, they are communicated into their practitioner’s digital PEXA Workspace, removing the risk of email interception and the need to re-key bank account information. The app also enables the buyer’s practitioner to provide their firm’s trust account details securely to the buyer to ensure the safe transfer of deposit and settlement funds.

Justin Toohey, CEO of Legal Practitioner’s Liability Committee said:

“Payment scams have exposed great risk in sending bank account details and payment directions for electronic funds transfers by email. We have seen a sharp increase in claims against legal practitioners where email communications in relation to settlement funds have been intercepted and altered by fraudsters, leading to the loss of client funds. LPLC strongly supports industry initiatives with tools such as PEXA Key for more secure communication of bank details for electronic property transactions and urges all practitioners to consider using them to guard against email fraud.”

In addition, the app offers clients educational material on what to expect when buying and selling property and settlement tracking. Many Australians already follow their online purchases and parcel deliveries online, so providing this capability in the property space is certainly in line with today’s consumer expectations.

RKL Lawyers and Consultants was the first firm to request client bank details through PEXA Key and played an important role in its development:

“We’ve received great feedback from our clients. Not only can they track their settlement, but they are pleased to see we have a unique solution to protect the biggest transaction of their life. Through PEXA Key, we avoid the risks associated with manually entering bank details and have peace of mind knowing we are doing what is technologically possible as at today to safeguard our clients against email fraud,” said Zelma Rudstein, Principal of RKL Lawyers.

Sally Nguyen, Principal of B.O.S.S Conveyancing was involved in the product’s pilot and sees PEXA Key as a solution to this threat:

“The risks associated with manually collecting and entering bank details for settlement are just too high. The industry has been calling for a solution like PEXA Key for some time and we feel that this application is going to go a long way in protecting homebuyers, sellers and businesses alike.

“PEXA Key has truly changed the game for our firm, we feel reassured knowing there is now a solution out there that not only elevates our security posture but also provides an enhanced client experience. The ability for clients to track their settlement and see important dates really makes them feel like they are receiving a unique experience and are a part of the journey. It is evident that PEXA takes security seriously for its members and our clients and we look forward to seeing the industry embrace this technology,” said Sally.

[1] 2018 PwC Global Economic Crime report

[2] For terms of the PEXA Key Secure Communication Guarantee, visit pexa.com.au