Scams are on the rise in Australia. A record $211 million in losses to scams were reported to Scamwatch from 1 January to 19 September 20211. Investment scams make up a large part of these losses, costing Australians over $70 million in the first half of 2021 alone2. As one of your biggest investments, super is often a target for scammers.
Scammers are tricky and scams often look like legitimate text messages, emails or phone calls. But there are things you can do to protect yourself. Knowing what to look out for and being alert to them is important. Apply these tips to keep your super safe from scams.
Know the 10 most common types of scams to look out for
Scams come in many forms and try to grab your attention across various devices. Common ways scammers may reach out to you include:
- Text message
- Phone call
- Applications or online platforms, such as dating or social networking.
Scammers have cunning communication methods to get your attention, seem legitimate, and encourage you to respond. They might try to get you to:
- Select a link
- Hand over access to your computer
- Give up personal or financial information
- Download a file.
Scamwatch, run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), has listed 10 common types of scams:
One example was the 2020 superannuation early access scam. This involved offers to help people access their super early. Scammers would:
- Cold call and offer to help access super early, or promise some other benefit such as handling your account for you
- Email or text message fake vouchers, financial help offers, or information related to COVID-19
- Appear to be from a legitimate organisation, such as your super fund or bank, and ask for your personal information, such as identity documents.
They would then access your account and transfer your super to their bank account.
Two common types of investment scams include fake cryptocurrency trading and Self-Managed Super Fund (SMSF) phishing.
Cryptocurrency trading scams
These scams usually involve offers on very profitable trading systems based on supposed individual expertise or sophisticated algorithms. The scammers may:
- Promise high returns with low risks
- Use fake celebrity endorsements to try to enhance their legitimacy
- Request the transfer of funds into a trading account, either via a crypto wallet or bank account
- Provide small returns sourced from other victims’ initial deposits.
They’ll then claim problems with making withdrawals and cut off contact.
Self-Managed Super Fund (SMSF) phishing scams
These scams often include being cold-called or emailed by random individuals or organisations. They’ll usually say they’re Financial Advisors or representatives of a SMSF. The scammers may:
- Promise high returns if you move all or some of your super to a SMSF
- Use email, web and company information that looks legitimate
- Register businesses and bank accounts in your name to appear genuine
- Ask you to provide personal information, such as identity documents to complete the transfer.
They’ll then access your account and transfer your super to their bank account.
3. Attempts to gain your personal information
This involves someone obtaining your personal details by deceit. With these details they can steal your identity to commit fraud, such as using your credit card, opening a bank account or getting a loan. Identity theft can be very destructive and take many months, even years to rectify.
4. Buying or selling
Here scammers take advantage of people shopping or selling online. They may pretend to offer a product or service, then take your money and give nothing in return.
5. Dating and romance
This is where someone pretends to be a potential romantic partner on a dating app or platform, or through social media. They build up a connection and then play on emotional triggers to get you to provide money, gifts, or personal details.
6. Fake charities
In this instance, scammers pose as a genuine charity and ask for donations. They may also contact you to collect money after a natural disaster or major event.
7. Jobs and employment
This scam involves someone tricking you into giving them money to access a ‘guaranteed’ way to make fast money or get set up in a high-paying job.
8. Threats and extortion
Scammers will threaten you – through various means – to get you to hand over money or personal details. One example of this is the fake arrest warrant scam.
9. Unexpected money
This is where a scammer pretends to have money to give you. Common stories include a long-lost relative’s bequeathment, or a Nigerian prince desperate to offload millions of dollars – if only you hand over money, or personal details first.
10. Unexpected winnings
Here you’re contacted and told you’ve won something, such as the lottery – even though you never entered. The scammer then asks for money or personal information to hand over the prize.
Learn how to spot a scam
Scammers are always finding new ways to target your assets and identity. They can take a sophisticated approach, appearing to come from a legitimate business – even using official-looking logos and addresses. They’ll often:
- Say they’re from your super fund, bank, or a government agency
- Ask for personal information
- Offer help, such as withdrawing your super. This might be as one lump sum to an account that doesn’t belong to you, or as a withdrawal to a SMSF.
Look out for promises of early access to super and unrealistic investment returns, and only use licensed operators. You can verify licensed operators on the Australian Security and Investment Commission’s (ASIC) Connect website.
How AustralianSuper communicates with members
The Fund generally communicates with members in 3 ways:
- By email
- By mail
- By phone (to confirm the legitimacy of a request to withdraw or transfer funds).
We reach out to members for a few reasons, including:
- To provide your annual statement
- To confirm a recent investment option or account detail changes
- To share relevant Fund performance, tips on managing your super or news, depending on your marketing preferences.
- To invite you to our annual member meeting
If you’re unsure about an email you’ve received appearing to be from the Fund, don’t click any links. Instead, open your web browser and go to the AustralianSuper website.
You can also check with us through mobile chat, social media or by calling 1300 300 273.
Be alert to scams during key periods
Scams can occur any time of the day or night and right throughout the year. However, there are some key periods to be especially alert. Scammers often try to take advantage of times when your guard might be down. Those include:
- When you’re expecting a delivery. Scammers are taking advantage of more people shopping online in 2020 and 2021. Missed delivery scams prey on people potentially awaiting delivery of an online purchase by encouraging you to select a link or download a malicious file. They’re then able to get your details or infect your device.
- When you’re trying to access your super. Early access to super rules were temporarily relaxed in 2020 because of COVID-19. As a result, scammers created fake offers to help people access their super. Once they had your personal details, they would then access your account and transfer your super to their own bank account. Look out for promises of early access to super and if you’re unsure about an email or phone call you’ve received, check with us directly. You can do this through mobile chat, social media or by calling 1300 300 273.
- When you’re making a large payment or transfer online. If you’re making a large payment or transfer online, such as putting a deposit down on a car or house, always call the seller directly beforehand. False billing scams involve scammers posing as the seller and sending a fake invoice or requesting money to be transferred to a different bank account.
This information may be general financial advice which doesn’t take into account your personal objectives, situation or needs. Before making a decision about AustralianSuper, you should think about your financial requirements and refer to the relevant Product Disclosure Statement. AustralianSuper Pty Ltd ABN 94 006 457 987, AFSL 233788, Trustee of AustralianSuper ABN 65 714 394 898.