Online scammers target the unwary with COVID-19 super help offers

Coronavirus scam alert - fraud emails, phone calls offer govt help

Coronavirus
Be careful who's watching. Online scammers are looking at every opportunity to access personal banking and superannuation details.

Be careful who's watching. Online scammers are looking at every opportunity to access personal banking and superannuation details.

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is warning that scammers are trying to exploit Australians financially impacted by the COVID-19 crisis

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The competition watchdog has warned how scammers are now trying to exploit Australians financially impacted by the COVID-19 crisis with new fake superannuation schemes.

Scammers were attempting to take advantage of the federal government's recent announcement allowing people suffering financial hardship to have partial access to their superannuation from mid-April.

"These people are cold-calling, claiming to be from organisations that can help you get early access to your super," warned Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair Delia Rickard.

"For most people, outside of their home, their superannuation is their greatest asset and you can't be too careful about protecting it."

"The Australian Taxation Office is co-ordinating 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."

While older people are more commonly affected by superannuation scams, the new early-access scheme means a range of age groups are now experiencing these scams - Delia Rickard, ACCC

Since the government's announcement in March, there had been 87 reports of these scams, but no reported losses.

However, superannuation scams can be rich pickings for crooks with computer skills and a crafty cover story.

In 2019, Australians lost over $6 million to superannuation scams, with people aged between 45 and 54 losing the most amount of money.

Linked in

Ms Rickard warned emails offering assistance services were invariably linked to fraudsters.

"Never follow a hyperlink to reach the myGov website," she said.

"Instead, you should always type the full name of the website into your browser yourself.

Never give any information about your superannuation to someone who has contacted you - Delia Rickard

In most cases online scammers were seeking to obtain personal information, including information which would help them fraudulently access the victim's superannuation funds.

Everybody's fair game

"While older people are more commonly affected by superannuation scams, the new early-access scheme means a range of age groups are now experiencing these scams," Ms Rickard said.

"We also have reports of scammers offering to check if a person's super account is eligible for various benefits, or claiming the new scheme will lock people out of their accounts.

"Never give any information about your superannuation to someone who has contacted you.

"Don't let them try to pressure you to make a decision immediately - take your time and consider who you might be dealing with."

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The ACCC's Scamwatch service which handles hundreds of reports from consumers who have been ripped off by a vast range of random frauds has urged people to 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," Ms Rickard said.

Scammers are doing things such as falsely selling coronavirus-related products online, and using fake emails or text messages to try and obtain personal data.

Other scams include phishing emails and phone calls impersonating the World Health Organisation, government authorities, and legitimate businesses - including travel agents and telecommunications companies.

Who can help?

Anybody who may have provided information about their superannuation to a scammer, should immediately contact their superannuation institution.

If you have supplied personal or banking details, you should also contact your financial institution.

Anybody concerned about their potential contact with a scam could also contact IDCARE, a free Government-supported service which will work to develop a specific response plan to your situation and support you through the process.

More information on coronavirus scams is available on the ACCC's Scamwatch website, including how to make a report and where to get help.

Any suspicious behaviour relating to superannuation can also be reported to ASIC through its online complaint form.

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