Super
14 March, 2023

Keep your super safe from scammers

With over $3.3 trillion in retirement savings stashed across 23.3 million super accounts1, it’s no surprise super scams have risen significantly in Australia over the years. 

In 2020 alone, the ACCC’s Scamwatch received over 1,500 reports of super scams, with over $6.4 million in losses. 

That’s a lot of hard-earned super swindled away. 

Here we look at some of the most common super scams and offer a few tips to help protect you and your super. 

Common super scams

Offering to help set up a self-managed super fund (SMSF)

If you know what you’re doing and have the time to manage one, SMSFs can be an excellent option for investing your retirement savings. But scammers often use fake SMSFs to gain access to your super.  

Usually, SMSF scams involve fraudsters offering to set up a new SMSF on your behalf. This can come with a promise to ‘take care of all the paperwork’ and to grow your super faster through fake high-return investments.

Some scammers also spruik SMSFs as a way to invest your super in less common investments, such as cryptocurrencies and foreign bonds. 

Scammers using this approach can be patient and persuasive and often use fake investment performance apps or data to gain your trust over time.

However, once you’ve transferred your super into an SMSF or bank account they control, they quickly withdraw the balance and disappear with your retirement savings.  

Offering to help you access your super early

The whole point of super is to save for retirement, so there are strict rules about how and when you can access it. But some scammers claim to be able to help you access it sooner. 

The most common tactic is to try and convince you that you’re entitled to access super early for things like paying off your credit card, buying a house or going on a holiday. 

After all, it’s your money. You should be able to use it how and when you like, right?

Unfortunately, this isn’t true and trying to access your super before you're entitled is illegal. 

Generally, you can only access your super when:

  • you retire and reach your ‘preservation age’ (between 55 and 60, depending on when you were born) or 
  • when you turn 65 (regardless of whether you’re working)

The only legal way to access your super early is to meet a specific condition of release, such as severe financial hardship, under compassionate grounds, or if you have a terminal illness. 

For details, read our Early access to your super fact sheet.

Never trust anyone who contacts you out of the blue and offers to help access your super early — especially if they ask you to fill out forms to withdraw your super or transfer it to an SMSF. Scammers use this information to try and claim or divert early payments to accounts they control. 

You should also never attempt to access your super without meeting a legitimate condition of release. Accessing your super illegally can attract some severe consequences2. This includes: 

  • losing your retirement savings
  • paying extra tax, penalties and interest
  • being disqualified as a self-managed super fund (SMSF) trustee and having your name published online

COVID-19 early release scams

In 2020, the Australian Government temporarily allowed super members suffering financial hardship due to the economic impact of COVID-19 to withdraw some super early.

This scheme was a welcome lifeline for those in genuine financial distress, but it also led to a dramatic increase in fraudulent super activity.    

Usually, this involved scammers:

  • offering to help you access your super early
  • offering to check if you’re eligible for early release payments (and charging a fee)
  • posing as myGov or another government department and asking you to verify your details
  • posing at the ATO, myGov or Services Australia and making threats to scare people into revealing personal information

The Government’s Early Release Scheme ended on 31 December 2020.

If anyone contacts you about applying for an early release payment, report them immediately.

Report a super scam

Been targeted by a scammer? Report it to:

 

Protecting your super

Getting scammed can be devastating personally and financially, but there are plenty of simple steps you can take to protect your super and retirement. 

Check your super balance regularly

Sometimes it can be hard to know if someone has accessed your super illegally. So, check your balance regularly and look for any usual activity or transfer requests. If something doesn’t look right, contact us immediately.

You can check your balance and view your transaction history anytime in Member Online.

Update your contact details

Scammers often steal personal and account details through annual statements or other official correspondence. Keeping your contact details up to date can reduce the chance of your personal information falling into the wrong hands.

You can update your contact details anytime in Member Online.

Don’t trust unsolicited calls or emails

If you receive unsolicited calls, texts or emails from anyone claiming to be a Spirit Super representative, contact us to verify their identity.

The best way to do this is to call our publicly listed 1800 number — simply Google ‘Spirit Super Contact’. Never use contact details provided by people you don’t know. 

Talk to someone you trust

If something feels off, get a second opinion from someone you trust before making decisions or handing over personal information. Ask a family member, financial adviser, or even us. 

Check their Australian Financial Services License

Any person or company offering financial product advice in Australia must have an Australian Financial Services License (AFSL).

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has a searchable Professional Register of AFSL licensees. When confirming a person or company’s AFSL, choose ‘Australian Financial Services Licensee’ in the search drop-down menu.

Be sure to check the results closely. Sometimes scammers use names and or addresses similar to legitimate licence holders to fool you.

If someone claims they don’t have an AFSL or don’t need one, don’t give them any personal or account information and certainly don’t take any advice from them.

You can also check the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority’s Disqualification Register to see if someone has been disqualified.

Sources:

1Super Statistics - ASFA

2Illegal early access to super - ATO