Dani Venn (on left) is warning homebuyers. Picture: David Caird
Dani Venn (on left) is warning homebuyers. Picture: David Caird

MasterChef star left homeless

IT WAS meant to be a hugely exciting time for former MasterChef star Dani Venn.

Venn and her family had just sold their Melbourne home, with some of the funds from the sale to be used to purchase a dream property on the Mornington Peninsula.

Instead, the family, including two young children, ended up being plunged into a nightmare when hackers stole $250,000 that had been earmarked for the new home.

The thieves had managed to hack into the software system PEXA (Property Exchange Australia), the nation's new online property transfer system. The fraudsters had gained accessed via their conveyancer's email account, and diverted the money into their bank account.

"Our conveyancer was transferring the funds to our bank account to complete our settlement for our new property," Venn explained.

"However on Monday 18 June our money was taken by a hacker who compromised the workspace of a software system called PEXA by hacking into our conveyancer's email account, pressing the 'forgot password' button, intercepting the email to create a new password, logging in and unbeknown to our conveyancer created a new user.

"The hacker then changed the bank details of our transfer to their bank account."

The family has now been left homeless and are staying in a single room in a relative's home while they sort out the issue. Meanwhile, Venn has started a Go Fund Me Page in a desperate bid to raise enough funds to avoid losing their home deposit.

 

She has spoken of her ordeal as she wants all homebuyers and sellers to beware of the risks involved with using the system.

"We are living every family's worst nightmare and every Australian looking to buy or sell a house must know this could happen to you," Venn wrote on her Facebook page.

"We are now in the position to have to ask friends and family to donate to our cause as we have 12 days to come up with approx. $120,000 or lose our 80k house deposit and more.

"We are sharing our story because no one deserves to go through what we have been through in the last week and we strongly believe someone should be taking responsibility for what has happened.

"We hope that we will repay the money back to you when the insurance investigation is over and our money has been returned, but this may take months."

Venn attends an event. Picture: Julie Kiriacoudis
Venn attends an event. Picture: Julie Kiriacoudis

So why should we be concerned about PEXA?

Venn details her concerns about the system: "PEXA claim that they are not liable for a hacker compromising the workspace of a user's account and that they have a two-step verification process.

"However, from our perspective it is alarming that our conveyancer did not receive any notification from the software that a new user had been created and passwords had been changed. There should be an alert not just via email but also via SMS like most financial software.

"To put it in perspective PEXA not claiming responsibility or liability for this is like your online bank account being hacked and your money being transferred from your account and your bank saying it's not our fault and not notifying you. The banks would not do this, they have 100 per cent guarantee that if your online banking workspace/account is compromised they will refund the money.

"We argue that PEXA should have the same guarantee in place to protect users and their client's money in cases of proved cyber fraud/hacking like the big banks do. With such large sums of money being transferred it seems crazy that they don't and we believe this system will be a target for cyber crime in the future because of the large sums of money being transferred.

"What is most alarming to us and for all Australian's is that this system of e-conveyancing is becoming compulsory for all property settlements as of October in Victoria and WA and as soon as 1 July for NSW. This means if you are buying or selling a property you will not have a choice but to use this platform."

CBA's fraud department is currently investigating the crime.



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