Super and scams: how to keep your money safe

You’ve worked hard. You’ve saved hard. You’ve entrusted your future to a super fund. But how can you be sure it’s safe?

There is frequent concern in the Starts at 60 community about scams targeted at older Australians. Thankfully, when it comes to super, there are some very easy and straightforward steps to protecting your nest egg.

This week marks ACCC’s National Consumer Fraud Week: the perfect time to educate yourself and double down on your security.

To make this easier, we spoke to AustralianSuper’s Tony Brain, Head of Group Risk, and John Murton, Fraud Risk Manager, about the best steps you can take to help secure your super.

Protect your personal information 

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It’s easy to think of scammers as distant strangers. But the majority of incidents tend to come from somebody closer to home.

“To me, the word ‘scam’ usually means some kind of false scheme or con job,” says Tony. “As opposed to what I’d call identity fraud.

“What we often see across the industry is that somebody has allowed their personal identification information to be in the hands of others. Often it’s others they’ve got some level of association with – and sometimes that can be family.

“Sometimes the connection is a little bit more distant – a neighbour, a fellow community member, a co-worker – but they are often connected in some way.”

It’s natural to seek out advice from people you closely associate with if you’re uncertain. However, a little healthy scepticism can go a long way. When accepting advice from a trusted party, be careful with how much access you grant them.

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“At that moment, just pause and think about it,” says Tony. “Ask yourself: ‘Are they the people to help me with this, or should I just contact the super fund first?’

“At the end of the day, when family do it (take your identity), it’s still fraud.”

Keep track of your balance

John suggests one of the best mechanisms to detect super fraud is to check your account balance online at any time.

Unfortunately, the long-term nature of superannuation means many of us choose to “set and forget”.

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“If you don’t check regularly, clearly that gives somebody the chance to take money out without being detected for quite a long period of time,” John says.

Many of the larger superannuation funds have on-line access available these days – which in turn enables you to easily check your account balance.

“The risk of a paper statement is that they could be so easily doctored in the case where somebody is trying to defraud you,” says Tony.

“They’ve doctored a statement, they’ve sent it off to you, and it looks like your balance is still there. Meanwhile, they’ve arranged an address change so your real statement which is showing $5 rather than the falsified $500,000 is going to a different address.”

You don’t need to check your balance online daily, but even checking it once every six months is a good practice.

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If you suspect something is amiss, call your super fund immediately to alert them to your suspicions. They can immediately freeze activity and investigate.

“If such a call were received, that’s something AustralianSuper would take very seriously.” 

Follow safe online security practices

External or long-distance fraud is also a concern, although not as common as more local identity theft.

“It’s probably not that much different in super than it is in all financial institutions,” says John. “There are always going to be external people out there trying to dupe members into sharing their personal information.”

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Scammers have plenty of tricks up their sleeve, some involving hoax websites, phone calls, emails or Facebook pages impersonating the financial institution.

A few minutes to keep yourself educated could be all you need to protect yourself. The ACCC website has some very helpful resources on the most prevalent scams out there. Once again: a little healthy scepticism can go a long way.

“Take an interest in what you’ve got, ensure the information you’ve got is secure, and make sure your password is not an easy one to guess,” says John.

Choose your fund wisely

As with any financial institution, a little name recognition can go a long way.

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Generally speaking, the larger and better known the super fund, the more likely they’ll have strict legal guidelines to protect your money.

“Of course, nothing is certain,” says Tony. “But all superannuation funds will need to adhere to quite a specific set of requirements, and are then subject to review by government regulators, and usually relatively frequently.

“The government takes the integrity of the system very seriously, and we, as funds participating in that industry, need to adhere to a whole raft of requirements.

“A couple of the scams that have occurred at a larger scale in the superannuation industry – and there haven’t been many – have involved ‘super funds’ that have been established by people who aren’t necessarily known, or who have somehow bypassed regulations; who have somehow made themselves out to be super funds but are really not.

“At the end of the day, though, it’s a highly regulated industry with quite a large number of participants who have a long-standing history. Certainly from the sector that we’re part of – the “profit for members” sector means we’re not incumbent to any corporate shareholders – the culture is certainly fixated about doing the right thing for the members.”

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Are you regularly checking your super statement and following these basic precautions?

This article has been sponsored by AustralianSuper Pty Ltd ABN 94 006 457 987, AFSL 233788. The views expressed are those of Starts at Sixty and not necessarily AustralianSuper. For more information, please visit the AustralianSuper website.


Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and for information purposes only. It does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It is not financial product advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any financial decision you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from an independent licensed financial services professional.