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Warning over Woolworths, Coles scam targeting Aussies’ super

Lucy Dean
·2-min read
Have you seen this superannuation scam? Images: Getty
Have you seen this superannuation scam? Images: Getty

The number of superannuation scams increased 323 per cent over 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic made millions of Australians dip into their nest eggs.

Scammers used romance, cold calling and texts to target vulnerable Australians, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) revealed in notes to the Government’s Standing Committee on Economics.

However, they also used some of Australia’s favourite brands: Coles and Woolworths.

It said that in the year to 29 October 2020, scammers used fake Coles and Woolworths vouchers to reel in unsuspecting Australians, by telling them they would receive up to $300 in free groceries if they handed over their superannuation details.

The ACCC said scammers disguised the scam as a way to support people during the pandemic.

Woolworths has in recent days been at the centre of another scam which told victims they won a prize and asked them to provide their personal details.

While the number of superannuation scams increased, the losses from them decreased compared to 2019, with Australians losing $2.059 million in 2020, compared to $6.3 million in 2019.

A huge $2.8 million of the 2019 losses came from a single romance scam that saw the scammer convince the victim to establish a self-managed super fund and deposit their funds into it.

Early release

The Government allowed Australians to access as much as $20,000 of their superannuation early as part of its COVID-19 response.

Savers took $36 billion from their superannuation funds in 2020, with more than 1 million withdrawing from their super twice.

The ACCC said this didn’t necessarily trigger the majority of the scams, but did trigger some of the most frequent scams.

Scammers either posed as the Government on cold calls and asked for victims’ details to ensure they weren’t “locked out” from their super under the new rules, while other text messages implied the victim’s request to access their super had been granted.

It comes after a year in which scammers significantly increased their activity to make the most of the pandemic. Scamwatch received 5,170 scam reports mentioning coronavirus in 2020, with superannuation a common target.

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