The Australian government, and many other governments around the world, have recently announced initiatives to allow those in financial hardship to get early access to some of their superannuation funds with little or no tax. This initiative is very attractive to cyber criminals looking to scam their way into people’s retirement funds.
It is no secret that cybercriminals like to exploit every opportunity to scam people to obtain money, often in very devious ways, and we are already experiencing multiple fraudulent attempts with COVID-19 related scams. The next line of fraud attempts is expected to revolve around superannuation, as more and more governments around the world allow citizens to release all or some of their superannuation funds, to aid with financial stress and job losses brought on by the pandemic.
Superannuation scams are not new. As recently as September 2019, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, thwarted major fraud being carried out by a crime syndicate who stole millions of dollars from at least 70 victims, by stealing their identities and draining their superannuation and share trading accounts.
Most of the expected COVID-19 related superannuation scams will involve an email, SMS or phone call from someone pretending to represent an official organisation, such as the superannuation company, the government, the bank, etc., spruiking the new scheme announced by the government that allows you to withdraw money from your fund, and asking for your personal details, supposedly to complete the transaction and move the funds into your bank account. Another possibility is that they’ll try to convince people who manage their own superannuation funds to invest their money into non-existing companies.
The scams will likely be targeting the elderly, as criminals know that they are more vulnerable and less suspicious of fraudulent activity.
So how can you protect yourself from falling victim to one of these scams? Below are a few helpful tips:
- Ensure your details are up-to-date for your online superannuation account, and that no unauthorised changes have been made.
- Do not provide your details to any representatives or offers coming through SMS messages, phone calls, or emails. If possible, try to contact the relevant representative yourself via numbers or email addresses you already have or have searched for manually on Google.
- Follow the official announcements made by the government to ensure you always get the correct information.
- Before making any changes to your superannuation fund or withdrawing money, make sure you are talking to an authorised party via the Australian Taxation Office’s website: https://superfundlookup.gov.au/
If you think you have been scammed and money or information was taken from you, it is crucial to take immediate action. This will prevent the criminals from continuing their scam or at least limit its impact. Contact your superannuation fund to monitor for fraudulent activity on your accounts and freeze any bank accounts linked to that superannuation fund. You can also lodge a complaint via the ASIC hotline on 1300 300 630.
FraudWatch International is currently actively targeting all COVID-19 related Online Scams to protect all Internet users from cyber criminals.
If you are a victim of, or have encountered any scam attempts related to COVID-19, we encourage you to report them for assessment and possible take-down via our website: www.fraudwatchinternational.com/covid19/ or email: [email protected]