It is crucial to protect yourself and your family from scams. Scams can cost people a lot of money and cause a great deal of distress.
Most scams need you to do something before they can work. You may be required to send money to someone based on a promise that turns out to be false. You may need to give your personal details to people who turn out to be scammers. Some scams rely on you agreeing to deals without getting advice first or buying a product without checking it out properly. By following the simple tips we have outlined, you can help protect yourself against scams.
Identity theft is when thieves steal someone’s personal and financial information (such as a drivers licence or passport) and use it illegally to open accounts in their name. They can get this information several ways, most commonly:
- Online, through breaking into computer databases or setting up fake emails and websites.
- Offline, by stealing mail, so be sure to lock your letterbox or divert mail to a PO Box address.
Sending an email that looks like it comes from your bank, financial
institution or telecommunications provider is known as a phishing scam. These emails are all about tricking you into handing over your personal and banking details to scammers. Most work by including special links in the email to take you to a combination of genuine and fake websites.
These scams offer to give you early access to your superannuation (early release), often through a self-managed super fund and/or for a fee. You cannot legally gain access to the preserved part of your super until you reach your preservation age (ranging from 55 to 60 years of age, depending on when you were born). There are certain exceptions, such as severe financial hardship or compassionate grounds, but anybody who otherwise offers you early access to your super may be acting illegally.
If you do access your super early for an illegal reason, you may be subject to legal action and heavy penalties (including tax). These types of offers may come from someone posing as a Financial Adviser. They promise you early access to your superannuation benefits quickly and easily.
The scammers make their money by deceiving your superannuation fund into paying out these benefits directly to the Financial Adviser in cash. They may ask you to agree to a story to secure the early release of your money. Once the scammer has your money, they may disappear and leave you with nothing, or take very large fees before forwarding the remainder of the super benefit to you.
Sending or transferring money
- Never send money to anyone you are not totally sure about;
- Do not send any money or pay any fee to claim a prize or lottery winnings;
- Money laundering is a criminal offence: do not agree to transfer money for someone else;
- Make sure that cheques have been cleared by your bank before transferring or wiring any refunds or overpayments back to the sender; and
- Do not pass on chain letters or take part in pyramid schemes: you could lose your money and possibly lose your friends.
How to protect yourself
- Only give out your personal details and information where it is absolutely necessary and where you have initiated the contact and trust the other party;
- Treat your personal details as you would treat money: don’t leave them lying around for others to take;
- NEVER give out your personal details to people you don’t know and trust;
- Order a free copy of your credit report (www.moneysmart.gov.au) or call 1300 300 630 for detailed information) every year to make sure no one is using your name to borrow money or run up debts. If you need to check your credit report immediately there may be a charge however if you wait a short while (usually 10 working days) the report should be free;
- If you receive a call from your bank or any other organisation, don’t provide your personal details. Instead ask for their name and a contact number. Check with the organisation in question before calling back;
- NEVER rely on a number provided in an email or click on the provided link. Instead find the contact number through an internet search or check the back of your ATM card;
- Do not open, respond to or click on links in emails or SMS phone messages from people you do not know. If you do, viruses can be loaded onto your computer or mobile phone that may steal your personal information. Thieves can then gain access to your credit card and bank account details. Inform your bank immediately if you believe you have been a victim so they can disable account access;
- Be wary of people cold calling you with investment opportunities as this could be a scam; and
- If you receive a request from a friend or family member stranded while on holiday asking you to transfer money to them, contact them by phone or an alternative contact to verify the request is genuine before sending any money or providing personal details.
Visit www.moneysmart.gov.au or call 1300 300 630 for further information or advice. Report any suspected investment frauds to the Australian Securities & Investments Commission, via
www.moneysmart.gov.au or 1300 300 630, or your local police. Any information that can be provided such as company name, location or contact details will assist with subsequent investigations and enquires.