Australia

Australians urged to be vigilant amid spike in superannuation coronavirus scams

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says it has received nearly 90 reports of superannuation-related scams in recent weeks.

Australia's competition watchdog says scammers are already trying to exploit the federal government's move to allow people in financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus crisis partial access to their superannuation from mid-April.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says it has received 87 reports of superannuation-specific scams since the government's announcement on 22 March.

There have been no reported losses, but the ACCC is urging Australians to be vigilant.

“Scammers are cold-calling people claiming to be from organisations that can help you get early access to your super,” ACCC 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.”

"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.”

The Australian Taxation Office is coordinating the early access through the myGov portal and Ms Rickard said there was no need to involve a third party or pay a fee.

“If someone contacts you out of the blue, no matter who they say they are, don’t give away your private information especially not your bank account details or your super access numbers,” she said.

“Never follow a hyperlink to reach the myGov website. Instead, you should always type the full name of the website into your browser yourself.”

Finder.com.au’s Insights Manager Graham Cooke said there were all sorts of "very believable" scams circulating online, from phishing emails impersonating the World Health Organization, to people selling counterfeit face masks and more.

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“It’s pretty unsurprising that scammers are taking advantage of this opportunity - they’ve been taking advantage of every opportunity they’ve been given for quite a long time,” he said.

“It’s not just people that are being targeted. Hospitals around the country, and around the world - in these areas that are highly under pressure because of the coronavirus - are too.

"Hospitals tend to have older technology on their computers and we’re seeing reports of scammers targeting hospitals with scam emails too.”

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

People who think they may have fallen victim to a scammer are advised to contact their financial institution. They can also report a scam to the ACCC through Scamwatch.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000. SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments.

News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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