Australians that were financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic are targeted by scammers attempting to get their hands on victims’ superannuation funds partially released starting mid-April.
Superannuation (aka super) is also referred to as a company pension plan and it is a partly compulsory system requiring Australians to deposit a minimum percentage of their income into an account that will provide them with an income stream after retirement.
“Individuals affected by the coronavirus can access up to $10,000 of their superannuation in 2019-20 and a further $10,000 in 2020-21,” as the Australian government announced on April 2. “You will be able to apply for early release of your superannuation from 20 April 2020.”
With roughly 360,000 jobless or financially affected Australians due to the current pandemic having already applied for an early superannuation release per the ABC, cybercriminals are trying their best to trick them into handing over the info needed to get illegal access to those funds.
Cold calls for financial info
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says in a Scamwatch alert that the scammers are seeking to collect personal info from Australians in need of financial support, including information that will allow the crooks to fraudulently access the targets’ superannuation funds.
“Scammers are cold-calling people claiming to be from organisations that can help you get early access to your super,” ACCC’s Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said. “For most people, outside of their home, superannuation is their greatest asset and you can’t be too careful about protecting it.”
“The Australian Taxation Office is coordinating the early release of super through myGov and there is no need to involve a third party or pay a fee to get access under this scheme.
“Never follow a hyperlink to reach the myGov website. Instead, you should always type the full name of the website into your browser yourself,” she added.
This new early-access scammer scheme targets a wide range of age groups, unlike previous scam attempts that usually targeted older people.
While there were over 80 reports of such scams since the government announced the early release of this financial help measures for pandemic affected Australians, none of them have led to financial losses.
According to some of the reports the crooks have also offered to check if a target’s super account is eligible for additional benefits or claimed that the new support scheme is designed to lock people out of their accounts.
Don’t fall for the scammers’ tricks
During 2019, Australians lost over $6 million to superannuation scams according to ACCC’s notification, with people between 45 and 54 losing the most money in these scams.
“Never give any information about your superannuation to someone who has contacted you,” Rickard said. “Don’t let them try to pressure you to make a decision immediately, take your time and consider who you might be dealing with.”
“Be wary of callers who claim to be from a government authority asking about your super. Hang up and call the organisation directly by doing an independent search for their contact details.”
Australians targeted in such scams who have provided superannuation info to the scammers are advised to reach out to their superannuation institutions as soon as possible.
They are also urged to immediately contact their financial institution if they’ve been tricked into sharing personal or banking details.
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