Only a portion of the funds has been recovered.
Detectives from State Crime Command’s Cybercrime Squad began investigating the matter in November last year. Police on Monday released images of two men they hope might be able to assist with their investigation.
“Detectives investigating this incident believe the two men depicted in these images may be able to assist police with their ongoing inquiries,” Cybercrime Squad’s Detective Inspector Ian Wright said.
“The settlement of property, particularly in Sydney, generally involves large amounts of money and the funds taken in this instance are significant.”
“We know these scams often target private businesses and government agencies; but a growing number are individuals and families scammed out of their hard-earned cash, as we’ve seen here.
He added BEC scams were an increasing and persistent threat and urged people to remain vigilant.
Data from Scamwatch found that in 2020, there were 1300 reports of BEC scams with $14 million in losses, compared to 900 reports and $5 million in losses reported in 2019.
Queensland University of Technology’s School of Justice associate professor Cassandra Cross said the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the online landscape, allowing scammers greater access to unsuspecting victims.
“I think it’s increased the vulnerability of individuals and organisations, especially with the level of restrictions that currently exist and the popularity of working from home,” she said. “You can’t necessarily go into the office to double-check something. [Scammers] certainly take advantage of that.”
“It’s very easy to blame the individual … but we are all vulnerable to fraud.”
“If we do have suspicions over things we’ve received, we need to feel confident to reach out to someone and get their opinion instead of shrugging it off and sending the money regardless.”
Analyst of identity and cyber support service IDCARE Kathy Sundstrom said generally, scammers are evolving in their tactics.
“Scammers can now gain remote access to your computer by saying they’re going to check your internet security,” she said. “Unfortunately, once they have remote access, they have access to all your accounts … and you might not even be aware that it’s happening.”
Her advice was to be suspicious, pick up the phone and call the company or person to check the communication was legitimate.
Anyone with information that may assist Strike Force Urban investigators is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000
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