Queensland grandparent’s hack warning after real estate deposit went missing | #emailsecurity | #phishing | #ransomware


Who took Margaret Hailey’s money?

That is the $52,000 dollar question at the centre of a property sale that left an elderly couple without their cash for months on end and the victims of a potential hacking attack.

Mrs Hailey and her husband Pat decided to sell their cherished family home to downsize after the grandparents had a rough trot with serious health battles.

Margaret Hailey. (A Current Affair)

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The contract was signed, but on settlement more than $52,000 was missing that was to be paid to Mr and Mrs Hailey by their real estate agency Crafted Property.

When the couple noticed it was missing they went to their real estate agent, Philip Rsnikoff, to find out what happened.

“I said, ‘where’s my money?’ and he said, ‘no idea’,” Mrs Hailey told A Current Affair reporter Dan Nolan.

Margaret Hailey and her husband Pat. (A Current Affair)

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“I mean, you know, some days you lay in bed and you just sort of can’t get out of your mind – ‘where’s this money gone’?”

The matter of the missing money started from an email sent from Mr Hailey’s account to the real estate agency.

But the ANZ bank account details did not belong to Mr and Mrs Hailey.

More than $52,000 was missing. (A Current Affair)

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“Well we didn’t send it,” Mrs Hailey said.

“It came on Patrick’s phone and Patrick doesn’t know how to email, Patrick doesn’t know how to text.”

Police from the Brown Plains Police station started investigating.

real estate agent Philip Rsnikoff, from agency Crafted Property. (A Current Affair)

The most likely explanation – the couple were hacked.

“It’s been horrendous. Absolutely horrendous,” Mrs Hailey said.

In recent times the real estate industry has been a target for cybercriminals going after unsuspecting buyers, sellers and real estate agents.

Browns Plains Police station. (A Current Affair)

The Australian Cyber Security Centre issued this warning last year: “Cybercriminals are targeting all parties involved in the real estate sector, with a particular focus on impersonating conveyancing lawyers and communicating with their clients.”

Now in Queensland, all sale contracts come with a warning about the new risk.

“Before transferring any cash in response to an email you should always pick up the phone and call the real estate first to ensure that email has in fact come from the real estate professional,” Antonia Mercorella from the REIQ said.

Antonia Mercorella from the REIQ. (A Current Affair)

After six months without their money, the bank’s fraud team were able to reverse the transaction, sending it back to the agent to give to Mr and Mrs Hailey.

“It’s a big relief, a massive relief because for us it’s all about the customer and the client and that’s a big responsibility with their money,” Mr Resnikoff said.

“Hopefully we can sort out and catch the people that actually frauded everything.”

Queensland Police are still investigating to determine who is responsible.

Mr and Mrs Hailey said they will not be using emails ever again.

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