‘Sophisticated email scam’ costs Queensland grazier thousands of dollars

A Queensland grazier has lost thousands of dollars in a 'very sophisticated' email hacking scam which police warn is hard to detect. 

Key points:Police warn hackers are intercepting legitimate business invoices and changing bank detailsBusiness email compromise (BEC) was the number 1 scam in Australia in 2019, with losses amassing $132 millionBusinesses and customers are warned to take precautions to prevent being scammed

Police said the grazier received an invoice from a legitimate fencing contractor who carried out work on his Childers property in the Wide Bay-Burnett, before an email advised him of new bank account details for the company.

Unbeknown to him, hackers had intercepted the correspondence.

"It appears that someone has hacked the grazier's computer … and changed the bank account details on the invoice," Childers Police officer-in-charge Sergeant Geoff Fay said.

"Fencing is not cheap, so it was a substantial amount of money.

"The grazier has paid the money according to the invoice, which has basically gone into a dodgy account.

"They were elderly graziers who don't use computers and online payment systems on a regular basis … and offenders play on the innocence of people in that respect."

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Hundreds of millions lost

Queensland Police Detective Sergeant Karen McAteer, from the Financial and Cyber Crime Group, said the "very sophisticated" scam was known as business email compromise (BEC).

"In 2019, BEC was the number one scam in Australia with over $132 million lost," Sergeant McAteer said.

"Scammers will clone email addresses so they look very similar to the legitimate business.

"Because they've used the invoice from a legitimate business that they found in the email, it looks exactly the same."

Unidentified figure using a laptop and mobile phone.
Business email compromise (BEC) was the number one scam in Australia in 2019.(Pexels)

It was also unlikely that victims would get their money back.

"The money is very quickly transferred overseas, and once the money is gone from Australia, we have very little chance of getting it back, " Detective Sergeant McAteer said.

Business email scamsJane Fleming sits on steps inside her house.

There's no way Jane Fleming could have known an emailed invoice was fake. It came from the right email address and all the business's details were correct — except the bank account number.

Read more

She said people should always double-check invoices and bank account details before submitting a payment.

"Looking at the email addresses, checking the spelling, ringing and verifying," she said.

"The money that can be lost in a business email compromise can be absolutely devastating to a small business."

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Posted 9 Nov 20219 Nov 2021Tue 9 Nov 2021 at 6:03am, updated 9 Nov 20219 Nov 2021Tue 9 Nov 2021 at 8:47pmShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsApp


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