Online property exchange service PEXA says its platform remains secure and has “robust fraud protections” following revelations of a significant theft of funds involving its system.
Fairfax Media revealed former MasterChef contestant, Dani Venn, had lost $250,000 from the settlement of her property after someone accessed the PEXA account of her conveyancer.
The fraud involved transferring the funds to a bank account accessible by the fraudster.
PEXA said it became aware of the fraud involving Venn on 18 June.
According to PEXA, a person with access to the conveyancer’s email reset their PEXA account password.
“As a result, the destination account details in the settlement schedule were fraudulently changed,” PEXA said.
“PEXA has robust fraud protections and strict authentication procedures built into its platform,” PEXA’s acting CEO, James Ruddock, said in a statement. “Given the online environment in which we operate, we continually review and enhance these.”
The acting CEO said that PEXA’s platform had not been “hacked”.
“Practitioners’ email accounts were hacked,” Ruddock said. “Sophisticated fraud was then perpetrated against these practitioners, who operate via the PEXA platform.”
He described fraud involving the PEXA platform as “isolated incidents” that did not “represent a wider or systemic risk to the PEXA platform”.
He added: “PEXA understands this is an incredibly stressful situation for everyone involved and we’re proactively working with all impacted parties to ensure a good outcome, including working directly with one of the practitioner’s clients to assist them to settle on their new home. PEXA routinely communicates with practitioners on issues of cyber security and urges all practitioners to take steps to reduce the risk of fraud.”
“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 said.
“PEXA is also in the process of adding additional security measures.”
PEXA’s Workspaces are shared online areas on its platform allowing participants in a property transaction to communicate and prepare documents.
The company said its platform had reduced incidents of property-related fraud.
PEXA was formed in 2010. It came out of a COAG agenda item dealing with how to bring the world of property conveyancing into the digital age.
Its key shareholders include the Victorian, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia governments, the big four banks, Macquarie Capital, Little Group and Link Group.