Grim warning as super scams skyrocket

It was supposed to help struggling Aussies survive the coronavirus crisis - but glaring holes in the Government's superannuation scheme have allowed accounts to be drained by scammers.

Earlier this year, the Federal Government announced retirement funds would be made available to those experiencing financial hardship because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Under the plan, eligible Aussies are able to grab $10,000 from their super this financial year and a further $10,000 in 2020-21, with applications being accepted through Australian Taxation Office online services in myGov.

However, last month the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's Scamwatch revealed more than 2000 scams had emerged, with more than $700,000 lost.

 

"Scammers are taking advantage of people in financial hardship due to COVID-19 by attempting to steal their superannuation or by offering unnecessary services and charging a fee," the ACCC warns.

Most will start with an unexpected call claiming to be from a superannuation or financial service. Scammers will use a variety of excuses to request information about your superannuation accounts and may refer to the government's early release measures.

"Don't fall into this trap - there is no need to pay anything. It is a free application process, done through the ATO's website," Australian Securities and Investments Commission chair James Shipton said. "Other scammers are spruiking high-return investment opportunities. Remember - if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

 

FAKE MYGOV ACCOUNTS

But there have also been alarming reports of Australians receiving alerts from the Australian Tax Office explaining they had successfully de-linked their myGov and ATO accounts despite not authorising the change.

Last month, Business Insider Australia spoke with a Perth couple who had been targeted by scammers who tried to swipe almost $20,000 of their superannuation.

The pair received messages from their super funds which confirmed applications to release the funds had been received and approved.

The process was launched by crooks who had created fake myGov accounts for them after somehow accessing their personal information.

Their super was in the process of being released even though the couple had not lost income during the pandemic.

"This never should have happened. We don't qualify for early release of super under the government's own criteria. So the fact that these people were able to get in fraudulently, lie on the applications and have them approved in less than 24 hours beggars belief," one of the victims told Business Insider Australia.

The same scam targeted Aussie woman Angelee Basset, who told the ABC she "had no idea it was even possible to have more than one myGov account in your name" before falling victim herself.

"In order to stop this happening to others, one of the things that should be put in place is a limit on the number of myGov accounts an individual is allowed to have," she told the ABC.

Some scammers are setting up fake myGov accounts in their victims’ names.
Some scammers are setting up fake myGov accounts in their victims’ names.

 

HOW TO STAY SAFE

Mark Gorrie, NortonLifeLock APJ Territory Manager, told news.com.au there were some simple ways to protect yourself from scams.

Firstly, beware of online requests for personal information.

"A coronavirus-themed email that seeks personal information like your login details or card information is a phishing scam. Legitimate government agencies won't ask for that information. Never respond to the email with your personal data," Mr Gorrie said.

You should also always check the email address or link.

"You can inspect a link by hovering your mouse button over the URL to see where it leads," he said.

"Sometimes, it's obvious the web address is not legitimate. But keep in mind phishers can create links that closely resemble legitimate addresses. Delete the email."

Another telltale sign of a scam is dodgy spelling and grammatical mistakes.

"If an email includes spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors, it's likely a sign you've received a phishing email. Delete it," Mr Gorrie said, adding that generic greeting should also set off alarm bells.

"Phishing emails are unlikely to use your name. Greetings like 'Dear sir or madam' signal an email is not legitimate," he said.

Another red flag is emails that insist you act immediately.

"Phishing emails often try to create a sense of urgency or demand immediate action. The goal is to get you to click on a link and provide personal information - right now. Instead, delete the message," Mr Gorrie said.

And finally, watch out for donations.

"If you're planning on making a donation, ensure you are on the charity's official page or website before giving away any personal details," he said.

Originally published as Grim warning as super scams skyrocket


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