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Couple in limbo after estate agent’s email account is hacked

PUBLISHED: 16:22 28 January 2020 | UPDATED: 16:22 28 January 2020

Alwyne Estates 286 St Pauls Road N1. Picture: Polly Hancock

Alwyne Estates 286 St Pauls Road N1. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

A couple were left in the lurch after a fraudster “hacked” their estate agent’s email and stole the deposit and a month’s rent they had saved up for a home in Canonbury.

Alwyne Estates board outside 20 Ockendon Rd N1. Picture: Polly HancockAlwyne Estates board outside 20 Ockendon Rd N1. Picture: Polly Hancock

Jessica Redman and her partner had finally saved up enough money to move in together, and found a property in Ockendon Road via Alwyne Estates, when they were duped into transferring £1,385 to a bogus account

The properties manager with whom they had been dealing had his email compromised just before Christmas, and they were tricked by cyber-crooks who said the landlord needed the cash before he signed a contract.

Another customer was also affected.

Alwyne Estates has said it will not reimburse the couple, and it's director Kevin O'Grady said: "Neither our email nor any other system was hacked."

Alwyne Estates board outside 20 Ockendon Rd N1. Picture: Polly HancockAlwyne Estates board outside 20 Ockendon Rd N1. Picture: Polly Hancock

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He added: " One of our staff inadvertently revealed his email login credentials - an entirely different situation."

He said this amounted to a "security breach and not a hack" but an email seen by the Gazette, sent by the properties manager on January 7, states: "Please be aware that we have discovered that my email address is hacked."

He said the perpetrators set up fake email addresses in his name to further trick customers. The firm informed the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) , and it has been logged with Action Fraud.

Jessica, 28, said: "We are in a limbo where no one wants to take responsibility. I work in marketing and consider myself to be quite savvy with these schemes. It makes you feel stupid. It's scary because you take measures to try and protect yourself but it gets to a point where, who's emails can you trust?

"It's actually putting a strain on my relationship. My partner's really unhappy with where she lives at the moment and now she doesn't have any deposit money and she's stuck, and I'm stuck at my mums. A lot of people don't have a back up deposit sitting around."

Mr O'Grady said: "While we cannot take responsibility for Jessica's decision to act on an email that was not sent from an Alwyne Estates email account... we have endeavoured to help Jessica and her partner as much as is within our power."

He said staff have since undergone more training and the firm has introduced "enhanced technical controls" to increase its security.


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