HELP PLEASE! Scammed out of nearly $100K

Hi everyone,

So I'd like to precede this by saying I already feel absolutely horrible. I feel like throwing up constantly just thinking about this, but thought I would put it out there to see if anyone in the OzBargain community might have had any similar experiences or any advice.

Long story short, it appears a scammer hacked either my conveyancer's or the other side's conveyancers email accounts. and from doing so, got my details as well as the details of my upcoming property settlement. They knew the amounts due in terms of stamp duty payments etc, as well as the dates these amounts were due. They created a near identical email account to my Conveyancer, who I was emailing around 5-10 times a day and so simply didn't notice anything out of the ordinary when I received the scammer's email. It popped up only with my Conveyancer's name and the email address didn't come up as 'new sender' or anything. I know that I should have checked the email address before doing anything, but I had just answered about 3 other emails from my Conveyancer and still had about 3 to go. I had 6 emails in a row from her on different matters and it didn't at all enter my mind that 1 of these 6 might not be like the others.

In short, I transferred nearly $100K at the direction of this scammer who I believed to be my Conveyancer to the account they directed in the email. I called the Conveyancer later that afternoon to discuss another matter, and mentioned to her I had transferred the stamp duty payment for this property. It was then we both realised what had happened.

I searched the BSB and realised it was a Bank X account. I called Bank Y first (my bank) to ask them to commence a scam investigation and try recover the funds immediately. They advised the funds had already reached the other account but they opened the Scam investigation immediately. I then went to Bank X and tried to have them freeze the account the funds were received into. They said the account was already closed and for some reason, they couldn't see any details in the system about who had opened or closed it (how is that possible?). That night, I attended the Police Station and filed a fraud/scam report.

I now have the Conveyancer's insurer, the Police and Bank Y/Bank X working on this case but I'm accepting the worst and not expecting to get anything back. In the off chance anyone here might have had similar experiences and have any advice, I thought I'd raise it to the OzB community. Again, please don't pile on me. I know and I feel horrible. I've barely been able to sleep and I am just hoping there may be some avenue I haven't thought of, even if its not likely to succeed.

Thanks in advance everyone

Mod: Edited for privacy


    • Thank you mate. Have submitted a complaint to AFCA about Bank X failures to properly identify their customer and should have a response by April 20th they say

      Mod: Edited for privacy

      • Just a heads up that if an account has been a party to suspected fraud even if they have ID the policy would be to not tell you anything no matter what information they have. Until they've investigated it you could still be part of the scam pretending to be the wronged party to gather intel on what they know…

  • +2

    A lot of people hoping OP gets his money back, i hope so too, but what I hope for even more is the crooks get caught. Because even if OP gets paid by the conveyancer/insurance we all still end up paying (in the form of increased insurance costs etc).

    The only way is catch the crooks and close the loopholes. I think all conveyancing and property lawyers should be on to this trick and remind clients upfront that before transfering money always give a phone call to double check the account details.

  • +2

    As someone who's about to settle on their first house I feel absolutely gutted for you op…. I really hope your story has a positive ending. I'll definitely be triple checking all details and confirming with the other end before transferring any money.

  • +1

    Given similar incidents have been reported in the media, I'm surprised conveyancers still use email to communicate this kind of information with such large amounts at stake. I wonder if they might be legally negligent. Worth talking to a lawyer if you don't get satisfaction through other avenues.

    I'm making the assumption here that the scammers had altered a legitimate email from your conveyancer otherwise you would have had some other payment instructions from them.

    • +1

      They certainly still use email, much more flippantly than we as consumers use email - and they get complacent because they do it all day every day

      Lawyers actually have some of the worst information security practices out there

  • +1

    Sorry to hear about OPs story but it is very good of him to share such a story and i am sure this will help prevent at least other similar scams anyone could have been a victim to this so its a reminder to be extra vigilant mainly when the amounts are big.

    good luck to OP for a satisfactory resolution.

  • +1

    Sorry to hear that. Thanks for sharing your story as a warning to others.

    Hope NAB is able to recover some or all of your money.

  • +1

    You mentioned searched the BSB and realised it was a NAB account. ? how could they not know where they transfered the money too ? Also you need to prove your identity to open a bank account so why dont they know the person ?

    • +2

      they do know but can't reveal to OP; they will reveal to the police when they issue a warrant

      • +2

        Ahh ok , hopefully the OP gets his money back and the police catch this person/persons .

    • +1

      Sorry but it's extremely easy to open a bank account, you only need an ID number and address for some banks. These details are often leaked, just like passwords.

      Banks do not do nearly enough to prevent this.

  • +1

    All the best OP. Usually when I read these I think no way I could fall for that, but this I think I probably could.

    Is it common for conveyancers to ask you to transfer money to them for settlement? I'm trying to remember when I bought my property but I'm pretty sure they asked me to hand over a bank cheque made out to the vendor. My memory of this could be wrong though.

    Edit: Actually just checked my email from prior to settlement. I had to make out a cheque for the shortfall amount to ANZ (probably the vendor's lender)

  • Not sure if this was mentioned but this exact switcheroo scam via email when exchanging property funds was a story on like 60 mins / today tonight. Id say about 2 years ago.

  • Report this to the ACSC too.

  • +2

    It's clearly not your fault but the other parties for not securing there email properly.

    You really need to speak to a lawyer once the Police confirm this and send a letter of demand.

    • +2

      You really need to speak to a lawyer

      OP is a lawyer


      • Wow, good pick up.

        • +1

          I'm s bit worried about what they have on me in my file…

      • +3

        OP should still talk to a lawyer who is specialised in financial fraud.
        No lawyer is proficient in every area of the law and given the post it seems OP specialises in a different area.

      • +3

        Wow good find! Haha. I am certainly not one who specialises in property law/conveyancing (as illustrated by this horrific story)

  • This is my worse fear. I just transfer $500 to my relative, got the details via Whatsapp and still called them up to confirm the bank account details. digit by digit.

    • I have done a settlement recently and realised how lucky i was. Neither RA or Settlement agent warned me on any scams as it seems very common now.

      However all the withdrawals including settlement agent fees done by the bank and directly through my account.

  • +4

    Might be worth reposting this on a forum I frequent, as there are a couple of excellent lawyers that tend to give a legal perspective for issues like this.

    Good luck!

    Also, a ~$2m property as a FHB 6 years out of uni? Well done, sounds like you are great at saving.

    • OP is a lawyer

      • +3

        I didn't realise.
        But even if that's the case, I, as an engineer, regularly seek professional advice from other engineers in areas where I'm not an expert. So it might still be worthwhile.

      • -1

        What makes you say that? I Can't find anything quickly in their comment history.

    • How do you know property is $2m? OP could have a pretty common LVR of 80-90%

      • And just to clarify - on top of my loan amount, I was due to contribute an extra $99K or so for settlement (approx $60K of which was stamp duty). When I bought my 1st apartment years ago, my conveyancer was not yet using PEXA and I did at that time transfer the additional cash I needed to contribute into their trust account. Hence why I didn't really think it was anything out of the ordinary when I was asked to do that here :(

        • +1

          Sorry, I assumed that it was all stamp duty. Hence the $2m (which would be ~$95k stamp duty in NSW).

          But yes, in your shoes, I'd try and get the free initial thoughts of the guys on the forum. But obviously it's all up to you, if you think it's being handled, all good.

    • I am but definitely don't specialise in property law/conveyancing, not that it might have prevented me being scammed anyway even if I did :(

    • +1

      Propertychat doesn't seem all that helpful- Funds Transfer Scam: who is responsible?

  • Kind of a side note, but this is only possible due to the rubbish old technology that bank transfer details work with. Payid is one step better as it verifies the name of the account you are sending to, but it would be cool if it also told you ABN or some other verification.

  • You should get it back, through CBA. I had a friend who deposited money $150 into another banks account, when he found out it wasn't the correct account number, the Bank wanted a fee ($50) to find the money and charge back.

    Although it's not $100,000, they might want a certain percentage to find where it went and to charge back.

    You can argue they weren't entitled to those funds.

  • +2

    Given that the OP appears to be a solicitor, is this for the purchase of a property by the OP's client?

    • +1

      No it isn't. Its for myself. I don't specialise in property law/conveyancing, so rather than try to just fudge my way through in an area I don't know well, I used an experienced conveyancer that my parents have used for a long time and recommended to me

      • +2

        I hope you don't mind me poking a tiny bit of lighthearted fun at you: Should have used a solicitor! ;)

        You'd have a much better idea than me, but I think your legal protection is better if you use a solicitor. Not that a "would've, should've, could've" helps you now at all.

        Again, without having any legal background, it sounds to me that you shouldn't be the responsible party and that either the bank or the (apparently hacked) solicitor should be responsible if the money can't be recovered. I sincerely hope it goes that way anyway.

  • +4

    I am really sorry to hear your story. I pray you get your money back and the scammers get caught as well. For everyone reading your story, it's a wake-up call as scammers got quite sophisticated now.
    My good wishes and prayers for you and your loved ones.
    Please keep us posted on this as most of us are concerned about you.
    A hug 🤗 from me to you. Please don't push yourself too hard and try to keep calm.
    Take care!

  • -1

    Haven’t scanned all 7 pages to see if below links have been posted before. But to others who have read some of it and wonder how it can happen and will it happen again links below explain it really well.

    And show OP was not at fault. And likely his conveyance agent email that was hacked.

    Really shows the whole PEXA system is bit of shambles and extreme caution should be applied by anyone settling on property

    • +1

      PEXA is not the issue in this case.

  • Your conveyancer has professional indemnity insurance. Make a complaint to the law society and go see new lawyers to begin proceedings against your conveyancers. The insurer may exercise their right to surrogate on and make a payout to you.

    • I know it's different in different states, but in NSW (where I believe the OP purchased), conveyancers are NOT lawyers. We call the lawyer ones solicitors.
      There is less recourse if you use a conveyancer, from memory. So the law society might not be useful in this case.

      • They should still have professional indemnity insurance, though

    • subrogate, not surrogate - no babies involved ;)

      • that is correct haha damn autocorrect

  • +1

    Hope everything turns out well OP. Keep your chin up and hang in there!

  • +2

    Have been checking this post every now and then, hopefully there's positive progress on OP's case.

    Just transferred around $2000 from my CBA account to my new Macquarie Bank account (which is registered under the exact same name as my CBA account).

    The money was withheld and I received an email from CBA: "For your security, first time payment to new accounts will be held for up to 24 hours."

    Such an irony especially the amount is lower than OP and I was transferring to an account with my exact same name. Wondering why didn't CBA also withheld OP's large sum of money for up to 24 hours like me.

    • +1

      Due to privacy reasons banks don't share names so all they know is that you transferred to another bank.

    • Exactly, a couple of months ago I transferred to a wrong account number and was able cancel and return it. Not sure how OP was not able to do that.

      • +2

        I transferred to a wrong account number and was able cancel and return it.

        Could you please share who you bank with since not all banks support this cancel function?

        • CBA. I got exactly the same email Bayleaf described in his post: "For your security, first time payment to new accounts will be held for up to 24 hours."

          • +1

            @SuperFly 420:

            held for up to 24 hours

            This is why you were able to cancel the payment as it is was effectively treated as a future payment.
            If it was an immediate payment (i.e. results in an immediate DEBIT on your account), then you wouldn't have been able to reverse it that easily.

            • @DoctorCalculon: It was just an EFT, same as the OP.

              I can’t understand why he was not able to cancel it.

              • @SuperFly 420:

                I can’t understand why he was not able to cancel it.

                If the funds have already left your bank account, how can you reverse the transaction easily without the receiving party agreeing to it first?

          • @SuperFly 420: CBA even holds payid over $150. If you send osko payment it's an extra 24hours on top of the normal processing time..

        • +1

          N.B. The bank also advised that due to phishing emails etc it's always prudent to check verbally with your recipient the account details as well - good advise I thought.

          Kudos to your banking institution!

  • Op, make sure you check if your email has been compromised.

    Do you use single sign on (or app passwords)?
    Disable them
    Disable imap, pop3 if using a web client
    Enable 2fa, disable recovery by txt. Write your backup codes down.
    Check your email log history.
    Change your password

    If you haven't been compromised the other party has.

    • +1

      They already reported the other party was compromised

  • Any update @celtics889345?

  • Its a scam that has been widely reported doing the rounds with simple solution of in person , check with both phones of the Conveyancer .
    Set up a gofundme page OP !

  • +4

    I used to work in a bank's fraud team.

    When did you contact the bank regarding this? If you did it straight away that afternoon, all or some of it would have been recoverable. Because CBA would have immediately called NAB to freeze the account. There's a hotline between the banks for this. I used to do it all the time, I just need to give them probable cause (just tell them your story) and sign a waiver so if anything happens, NAB will not be sued and I take full responsibility.

    How can $100k be drained so quickly from the NAB account? They couldn't have transferred it overseas, which is usually what scammers do, but that takes time for the bank to process, so if you raised the alarm on the same day, they couldn't have sent it out. Another option is withdrawal via a branch, this is very unlikely as there will be security cameras in the branch and they need to bring ID. They can't withdraw $100k from the ATM. NAB should be able to find out very quickly where the money went.

    It wasn't specified in the original post, when did you raise the alarm with CBA? If the money is no longer with NAB, then unfortunately, you are out of luck, CBA or NAB will not reimburse you, because you did technical authorise the transaction. The only way is to go to the police or claim on some kind of insurance.

    The police unfortunately don't care about this type of thing, they aren't going to do much for you, unless you have more evidence, eg the name of the fraudster.

  • +5

    Any updates on this?

    • Sorry for the delays. I've just put an update at the bottom of the thread (well whats the bottom right now)

  • Your story reminds me of this - terrible what people get away with :(

  • +2

    Bump- where did you get to @celtics889345 ? Gone very quiet all of a sudden.

  • +1

    Updates OP?

  • Keen for an update. Also, did you lose out on the purchase due to failure to get them the deposit :o ?

  • Update?

  • +2

    Starting to wonder if OP has been told to hush up…

  • +30

    So an update for those still following and apologies its taken a while. As you can probably imagine, trying every avenue has kept me very busy along with trying to do my day job. Luckily, I managed to settle the property 2 Mondays ago. However, the lost of the money has left me basically living paycheck to paycheck, so certainly put a dampener on what should have been one of the happiest achievements of my fairly young life.

    By way of update:

    1. Recovery by Bank Y - Unfortunately I received an email last week from Bank Ysaying they were unable to recover all but about $250 of what I lost. The money was transferred offshore and withdrawn from ATMs in Malaysia fairly quickly

    2. Bank X - Have apparently done what they can to answer the queries from my bank but were unable to recover all but $250. I submitted a complaint to AFCA, stating that Bank X could not possibly have done their due diligence here based on the fact they don't have valid ID for the account and also allowed the person to withdraw such a large sum and close the account right away. AFCA responded saying they are liasing with Bank X but I received a somewhat snarky letter from Bank X on Friday saying that in reference to the AFCA complaint, 'we are sorry that this has happened to you but it doesn't follow that we have any fault in this. We are asking AFCA to disregard your complaint.' I responded yesterday referring to AML legislation and the onus on banks to KYC, alleging that they can't possibly say they have adequately met the requirements or else someone would be facing criminal charges right now. Hoping that AFCA are going to be able to do something because Bank X have made it pretty clear they really can't be bothered with it

    3. Police - Have done almost nothing and maddeningly, a month after chasing them up and asking for updates, a constable called me last week asking me to submit a Fraud report form. I advised I had done this the night I attended the Police Station in March to report the crime, so obviously, not much has happened there which is very disappointing

    4. Insurance Comp A (Conveyancer's insurance) - This is my last real avenue left. My conveyancers have sent a letter of demand to the other side's conveyancers in the last few days asking for payment of the stolen amount due to the fact its evident the breach came from their side (which exposed my personal details and led to the crime). They've been given 14 days to respond and Insurance Comp A are chasing them up to try conduct a review of their IT systems. Fingers crossed they act quickly as I believe that is last chance

    In another interesting tidbit, someone who I won't name for their privacy but who works as a consultant for Fraud/InfoSec with all 4 big banks called me last week after a friend put him in touch with me and after a fairly lengthy discussion mentioned to me he believes it is very likely there are people in the banks themselves who are assisting these criminals and taking a cut of the proceeds for doing so. Hence why they can open/close these accounts somehow without satisfying the requirements. To be clear, I don't have any proof of this but its quite plausible given what these criminals have seemed to be able to do with little scrutiny

    Mod: Edited for privacy

    • +2

      Welcome back!

      "In another interesting tidbit, someone who I won't name for their privacy but who works as a consultant for Fraud/InfoSec with all 4 big banks called me last week after a friend put him in touch with me and after a fairly lengthy discussion mentioned to me he believes it is very likely there are people in the banks themselves who are assisting these criminals and taking a cut of the proceeds for doing so. Hence why they can open/close these accounts somehow without satisfying the requirements. To be clear, I don't have any proof of this but its quite plausible given what these criminals have seemed to be able to do with little scrutiny"

      I find this fascinating and infuriating in equal measure.

      Following (what I think is) logic; with all the checks and balances in place banks have to stop these things from happening, it's incredibly plausible that this type of scenario has occurred. They are being enabled from the inside because if anyone with half a brain looked at the transaction history on that account before closing it, they would see something amiss. NAB/uBank have some pretty big problems on the inside if this is the case.. time to shake the tree and see what comes loose.

      Keep at it mate- there is proof at the minimum of the bank employee not following process (in the highest order) and at the worst, organised crime. There should be a pretty clear audit trail of who did what with that account I would expect. Either way, the bank should be held accountable on all levels (KYC, account closure etc)

      Even in Malaysia- the possibility of the ATM being fitted with CCTV may be able to identify the individual. This is a reach, I know..

      As for the Aussie cops investigating- doesn't sound like the officer looking into this could investigate his way out of a wet paper bag. Sigh.

    • +3

      Keep us updated on this one - The thought of losing the money, potentially the house you were buying and the stress of it all, must be still having a big impact on you - take care.

      Something dodgy is going on where big money can come in and out of a dodgy account and have no ID against it. They should audit who created the account from the staff end and get the Federal Police in - surely they have jurisdiction on international money transfers - Ring them and say you think it is for terrorist money, that should get them interested - and hopefully a rocket up NAB for such bad practices. Surely no ID breaks some government regulations. I think we are all hoping (apart from you getting your money back) that it makes front page of the paper…

      Honestly you probably don't want the publicity, but call A Current Affair, they will eat this up.

      • +6

        It certainly has had a big impact on me in various ways, from my financial circumstances (obviously) but also to my physical and mental wellbeing. Its amazing all the ways something like this can impact you!

        Thanks though mate. I appreciate it :) I have responded to Bank X snarky letter advising that I am taking it to the media. I have a contact in SMH who thought it sounds a good story given the massive fine Bank Z received from AUSTRAC last year. I told Bank X this SMH contact said 'this sounds a good story' when I mentioned it to him

        Mod: Edited for privacy

        • +2

          Looking forward to watching NAB get raked over the coals.

          Let us know when the story goes live! :)

    • +12

      Thanks for the update and glad that at least property got settled.

      I understand it's extremely stressful and hoping the best outcome for you. I will highly suggest here to update AFCA complaint to advise that NAB has facilitated terrorism financing, money laundering and child exploitation where they allowed unknown party to open/close account without KYC. Here is list of breach with regards to AML/CTF Act 2006 based on my understanding.

      1) Section 32 and section 33 - Failure to complete customer due diligence
      2) Section 35 - Failure to verify customer identification
      3) Section 36 - Failure to have transaction monitoring program in place to identify unusual activity and allowed closure of account without invoking Enhanced Customer Due Diligence process
      4) Section 41 - As they failed to complete customer due diligence, no ECDD took place before account closure due to lack of transaction monitoring, it is unlikely that they have lodged suspicion matter report to AUSTRAC on this matter.
      Section 64 to 66- As they don't hold KYC, it's unlikely they submitted IFTI report to AUSTRAC as this requires KYC info of sender.

      They also breached AML/CTF Rules 2007 which compliments AML/CTF Act 2006. For example, section 4.13 and 8.24 as they would have failed to complete PEP(Political Exposed Person) screening due to lack of customer identification information.

      Even if you have already submitted enquiry to AUSTRAC, lodge another enquiry and be specific about breaches as per above.

      You have a very solid case to proceed with criminal charges against NAB here so good luck!

      • +4

        That is awesome info mate. Thank you so much for that! Definitely going to push this forward!

        • +2

          What Ash-Say said is spot on, like my original post you'll get it out of NAB. Either via insurance or directly. Was going to also say that it was an inside job in the bank but there are so many shit posters who jump all over you on this board, so I held back. Reason it's an inside job is first-hand knowledge, hearing from farmers who got ripped off by banks in the '90s. People were booted off their land with excuses saying they were in default, but they never were… and it all got covered up, particularly in WA.

          As soon as you mentioned the accounts were closed immediately, someone in the backend of the bank facilitated it. Again, went through my own grief going to court with two of the big four banks at the same time. Was extremely surprised to know how much people that 'do not' work in branches had in access through their portals. Whatever you do, you'll probably have your account closed by NAB anyway. Oh, and they'll make you sign an NDA too.

          • +3


            Whatever you do, you'll probably have your account closed by NAB anyway.

            OP has CBA account, not NAB.

  • +3
  • +3

    Any further developments here OP? I really feel for you.

    • +1

      @celtics889345 I'm interested to know as well. Especially if it ends up being reported on by your SMH contact.

      • probably still investigating…

  • +19

    Hi all,

    Apologies again for the delay in update. For those still following, after receiving said snarky letter from Bank X claiming they'd followed all required procedures and verified the account holder for the account that scammed me, I sent them a response saying they should not assume I don't know more than they think. To this letter, I attached an email from a member of their scams team who had anonymously provided me info about the account, the amount received and where it was all sent. All I had given this team member was the BSB and Account number and he was able to come up with accurate info about it all, down to the cent in terms of what I had sent. I am now awaiting a further update from Bank X on that front after a week of silence, but I'm not going to let it rest with them.

    Regarding the Insurance Comp A route, the 2 weeks my conveyancers had given the other side's conveyancers for response to the facts of the case making it clear it was them who was hacked has now passed. I am now discussing next steps with both my conveyancer and Insurance Comp A. It looks likely based on the fact the other side didn't even acknowledge the letter of demand that we're going to have to go to Court with them to recover the money.

    Lastly, on AFCA, I've had no update from them since receiving an email saying they had opened my case.

    I will update you all as soon as I have a decent update. Sorry again its taken so long!

    • +5

      Thank you for the updates! I really do hope you get somewhere

    • +2

      Thank you for keeping us informed. I hope you get your money back and some dodgy arse holes see justice!

    • To this letter, I attached an email from a member of their scams team who had anonymously provided me info about the account, the amount received and where it was all sent. All I had given this team member was the BSB and Account number and he was able to come up with accurate info about it all, down to the cent in terms of what I had sent. I am now awaiting a further update from NAB on that front after a week of silence

      I'll give you a further update that NAB won't tell you:

      The employment of the "member of their scams team who had anonymously provided me info about the account" has had their employment terminated.

      (The above is not fact, it is my assessment of what is likely to happen.)

      Almost everything in banking generates trace records. Those records will be used to identify the staff member.

    • +1

      I've been following along, but providing the email that you were given by someone you know might have been a bad idea as they may lose their job.

      I've worked in a fraud team before (not banking though) - they will keep meticulous records and can see who has viewed which account etc.

      There is a lot of work done behind the scenes when a fraud matter is investigated, they would need to lodge reports with the relevant authorities and such - it is very frustrating to be the victim without any clear communication from the bank(s). Others have indicated it might be an inside job which is terrifying in itself.

      I'm sorry they haven't seemed to have responded with anything useful, I do hope everything is recovered for you and it's a shame that you have to go through so much to fight this!

  • +24

    By way of update, finally a good one. Insurance Comp A contacted my conveyancers a few days ago who contacted me to say Insurance Comp A have confirmed that the breach was indeed on the other conveyancers side so that at least resolves that question and Insurance Comp A have said they'll come back to us next week with a 'settlement offer.' My conveyancers advised that often they provide a bit of a lowball figure to start, hoping you'll just want to get what you can back but from talking to a few who deal with them regularly, they've said that they won't want to go to Court over this amount (which for them isn't huge). As such, I've made it known that I will indeed to go to court to get it back should they offer anything below what I lost to this Cyberhack and I 100% will if required.

    Also, really horrified to hear the couple of comments saying the Bank X staffer may get in trouble over it. I had scratched all names, times, email addresses etc out of the transcript I provided and hoped that would protect this person's identity :(

    • +3

      I've made it known that I will indeed to go to court to get it back should they offer anything below what I lost to this Cyberhack and I 100% will if required.

      As you should! I can't believe they would even try to offer anything less than the full amount. If anything it should be the full amount + compensation.

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