Because of the sheer amount of money held in superannuation, it’s a ripe target for scammers. Using a mix of savvy tech scams and emotional manipulation, fraudsters are looking to get as much money as they can from super.

It’s easy to think that you would never be a victim to a financial scam, but the honest truth is that some the scams are sophisticated and convincing. That’s why the ACCC Scamwatch reports that, as of 30 September 2019 more than 6,000 scams were reported in Australia alone with a total loss of more than $60 million!

Senior Fraud Specialist Leah Bennett says that special attention should be paid to protecting seniors. “Because seniors generally have more accumulated wealth, they’re the ideal target of a scam.”

The most common scams fall into two general categories: investments and romance. Investment scams appeal to people who feel financially vulnerable. “If someone’s recently gone into retirement and doesn’t feel financially secure, they can be more susceptible to investment scams” says Ms Bennett.

Relationship scams appeal to interpersonal vulnerabilities, like the loss of a spouse or impersonating a family member.

Scams are often variations on a theme. Most scammers begin with unsolicited contact advising you that you’re entitled to a reimbursement for overpaid taxes or bank fees. They’ll pretend to be from a variety of places, like government agencies or other organisations like banks.

“You should be cautious whenever anyone makes unsolicited contact, be it through mail, text, email or even a phone call,” says Ms Bennett. “If you’re called, advise the caller that you will call them back – not to the number they’ve called from or any number they provide, but from a number that’s on the actual organisation’s website or on a statement you’ve received.” The organisation should have a record of any contact they make with you, which is one way to ensure that the contact is legitimate. “If the caller refuses to get off the line with you, or is very pushy, it’s best to terminate the call.”

Things you should never give out

Regardless of who you are speaking with, you need to be careful with what personal information you give out about yourself or your finances. Ms Bennett says these are some of the most common examples of information that scammers are trying to get – and you should work to protect:

  • Tax file number (TFN)
  • Medicare number
  • Debit or credit card numbers – This is not a form of ID and shouldn’t be sent to anyone
  • Driver’s license
  • Proof of age card
  • Address

You should also avoid self-identifying who your super or bank accounts are with. “Scammers will often identify themselves as being from something generic, like ‘member services’ and ask probing questions to try to learn who your accounts are with,” says Ms Bennett. “Once they get that and some ID information, they’ll be able to start trying to access your account by pretending to be you!”

What to do if you think you’ve been scammed

If you believe you’ve been scammed, you should contact Scamwatch, which is run by the ACCC. It’s also a great place to keep up-to-date with the latest scams.

If the scam involves your financial institution, you should contact them immediately. Advise them that you may have been compromised or if you have lost money. Think your super has been targeted? Contact us immediately on 1300 658 776.

Think your identity has been stolen? Contact iDcare on 1300 432 273. iDcare is a free service run by the government that can help you develop a response plan, including a Commonwealth Victims’ Certificate to help support your claim of being a victim of identity theft.

If you aren’t sure, have a chat

If you think something’s wrong, it’s best to get a second opinion. “Scammers rely on you being confused and acting quickly and rashly,” said Ms Bennett. “Take a breath and get a second opinion by calling your bank, your superannuation fund, the ACCC, or even a friend you can trust to get some perspective.”

Want some more tips on avoiding being scammed? Check out these great tips from the ACCC Scamwatch.