Identify theft and scams rose in superannuation during COVID-19

A recent report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) shows that identity theft is up 55% in the same period last year. Indeed, 24,000 people have reported their personal details stolen so far this year, as experts warn scammers have been targeting Australians' COVID-19 financial relief payments and superannuation.

"They might be pretending to be MyGov, Home Affairs, ATO, Health Department. They'll contact you either by phone, text, or email, convincing you that in order to access a particular benefit or for them to help you get early access to your super, you need to share a range of personal information with them. Everything from super details, bank account details, drivers licence, Medicare number — all of the information that scammers can use to impersonate you."

- Deputy Chair of the Consumer Watchdog, Delia Rickard said.

Scammers had been pretending to be the Government, often tried to get enough documents from people to tally up 100 points of identity. They can then apply for payments from the Government in your name or have your cold, hard superannuation cash deposited into their bank account.

With that much information, scammers could even open bank accounts and take out credit cards. When it comes to superannuation, the ABC has reported on several Australians who have seen funds disappear.

The ACCC said $91 million had been lost to scams so far this year and $22 million of that had been lost to identity theft.

In one example, a victim lost $62,000 after someone created a new account using their personal details. The scammer then tried to transfer funds from a home loan account and made multiple other transactions.

How to protect yourself

The ACCC's advice around protecting your personal information is:

  • Do not be pressured into giving away any personal information by someone who has contacted you, no matter who they say they are.

  • Do not click on links in unexpected emails or messages, even if it appears to have come from a legitimate source.

  • Use strong passwords for your accounts and internet network, and never share them with others.

  • Install anti-virus software on your devices and keep it up to date.

  • Limit what personal information you share about yourself online, including on social media.

Now, the COVID-19 lockdowns might be tough and many of us would like to be socializing more than we are, but if you're online, keep your guard up.

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