Episode 12: Protecting your super from scams and fraud

12 October 2023

It’s no secret that the internet has revolutionised the way we handle our finances, but it’s also opened the door to scams and fraudulent activities. And when it comes to our hard-earned retirement savings, most of us can’t afford to take any chances.

In this episode, join our host Anne Fuchs and Australian Retirement Trust’s Manager of Financial Crimes, Rebecca Mallett and Chief Technology Officer Rod Greenaway as they discuss financial scams, how to spot them and how to keep your superannuation investment and information safe.


ANNE: Hello and welcome to Super Insider, Australian Retirement Trust's podcast series on investment markets, the economy, and making sure you can retire well with confidence. Today we're sitting here in Meanjin, otherwise known as Brisbane. It's Turrbal and Yuggera country and I'd like to pay my respects to Elders past, present, and emerging.


My name is Anne Fuchs, I'm Executive General Manager of Advice, Guidance and Education here at Australian Retirement Trust. And with me today are some gurus on all things around financial crime and scammers.

So we're not really talking about investment markets in the economy today. Rebecca Mallet, who's our manager of Financial Crimes - Operations, welcome to Super Insider.

REBECCA: Thanks Anne, it's great to be here.

ANNE: And Rod Greenaway, our Chief Technology Officer.

ROD: Thank you, Anne, lovely to be here.

ANNE: Now before we kick off, I need to make sure I retain our brownie points on Super Insider with our Compliance department here at ART. So, before we begin, I just want to do our General Advice Warning.


ANNE: I need to let everyone know what we're going to talk about today is general information only. Any advice doesn't take into account your personal situation. You should consider your circumstances and think about getting personal financial advice before acting on anything we discuss. You should also consider the relevant product disclosure statement and target market determination before deciding to acquire, or continue to hold, any financial product. You can find this information on our website or by calling us on 13 11 84 if you're a Super Savings account holder or 1300 360 750 if you have a QSuper account.


ANNE: Okay, so where do we begin? Rod, I might start with you if that's okay. At a high level, can you define what is a scam for our listeners?

ROD: Yes, sure. Anne. Look, essentially, they are a fraudulent scheme, typically done online or over the internet, where scammers try to solicit information from members to effectively take their money essentially.

ANNE: And so, Rebecca, your job, financial crime in a super fund, that sounds heavy, doesn't it? You know,
tell me about your role.

REBECCA: So, our role, there's multiple facets to our role. We're looking at the transactions that come into the fund. We're looking for money laundering, terrorism, financing, all of the stuff that we're expected to look after under our obligations and reporting obligations. And then what we're looking after is our members, we're making sure that they're secure, that their money's secure and that their information is safe.

ANNE: I guess it makes sense because superannuation is just such a significant, you know, pot of money, if I can describe it that way now at the $3 trillion mark, or thereabouts. So, I guess it makes sense that what Rod was describing in terms of a scam, actually it's happening in superannuation too, so what are you seeing?

REBECCA: I guess what we're seeing the most of is that our members are compromised outside of our superannuation environment. This could be compromises of their data being breached on other websites, other platforms, and their data is just been mined.

ANNE: That's scary.

REBECCA: It can be, but what we're asking is for individuals to be vigilant, to understand where they're putting their data, what questions that they're answering and what are people going to do with it once they receive it. The themes that are coming through these days is this is happening - it's happening everywhere. It's not just something that's relevant to our superannuation environment. This is life these days. Data is the most important piece of information that we own. It protects us as individuals, it protects us financially and it protects, it protects you into the future. So, what we're just saying is that's where it starts. There's a compromise, your data is leaked, and then it just gets used and collected and then all of a sudden there's enough information and then they come looking for where's your money.

ANNE: And so I guess things like having different passwords for those websites where you've got a lot of personal data would be a great place to start. And not using your first name, last name, and your date of birth for both of them would also be a good place or a good thing to not do.

REBECCA: Correct, just think about where are you reusing them, on what sites. How easy are those sites to get access to? But just think about this is the largest asset that you have outside of your family home. How are you going to protect it? What are the steps that you're going to put in place. And one of those is, yes, just not reusing passwords over and over again. Changing them up and making sure that they're not straightforward,
that they don't contain dates of birth or key pieces of information like children's names or pets' names.

ANNE: That's really good advice.

REBECCA: Yes, because that's what they look for. If they've gained access, or if your passwords have been compromised in the past, they'll just reuse them and, they're sold on the Net, so they'll just keep trying until they find a password.

ANNE: Yes, so Rebecca, are there any stories - not to scare our listeners because we generally don't like to scare our listeners on Super Insider - but is there an interesting, short story about something you're seeing in superannuation around financial crime and scamming?

REBECCA: I think one of the emerging risks that we're starting to see is around transfers to self-managed super funds. The access of these scams is to get hold of the money. And if you think traditionally about superannuation, it used to be a long-term gain. You could only access it once you've met a condition of release, you'd reached your preservation age, or you'd retired. These days it's about how can you get hold of the money. What we've started to see in the industry is our members transferring funds to their self-managed super funds. So out of our traditional environments where it's generally kept a little bit more safe, it's secure, we've got investment strategies and we've got different controls in place to protect it. We're seeing our members who are receiving cold calls, they're getting calls from financial institutions that they've never engaged with, that they haven't had anything to do with before, saying to them we can transfer your money, we can make you more money, we've got great investments, quick returns, you can invest in property, you can invest in crypto. So, they're transferring their money, and what traditionally we'd expect is that these firms, they're quick setups, they're probably like burner institutions, they're filling out the forms for people. So, they're saying don't worry about filling in the paperwork, just sign it, just send it back.

ANNE: If it looks too good to be true, run to the hills.

ROD: It probably is.

REBECCA: I think that's one of the emerging trends that we're just starting to see the risk of transference to self-managed super funds and early access to funds. Because, as we all know, as you said, super is a large pot of money, and once it's gone, once it hits a bank account, it's really hard to get back.

ANNE: And what do you do if you're a member and you think this has happened to you, you're listening to this podcast and you're like, "Hold on! I think I just had one of those interactions last week and I actually asked them to help me." What do you do?

ROD: I think first and foremost is call your fund, and secondly is always monitor your transactions, be that your bank account or your super fund. Just stay really alert and awakened to what's happening on your accounts.

ANNE: Okay, so Rebecca what, if you're in that spirit of we all have a role to play, what's your advice if you were sitting around the kitchen table with our members and saying, "Look, this is what you gotta do" what would you be saying to them?

REBECCA: The first thing I'd be saying to them is - how up to date are your details? Does your fund know where you live now? Does your fund to know what your contact details are, and how to engage with you? Engage early, don't be one of these people who doesn't, you know, I don't have to worry about super, there's 40 years until I retire, it's all taken care of.

And then secondly, I think I'd be saying to them, log on to member online, have a look at what's going on and listen out for those key indicators. If you didn't authorise that request, or expect that request to happen, what you should do is contact your fund immediately. You can either reach out to us by our web pages, or you can email us, or you can contact us. There are many ways to get in touch with us, but early intervention is key.

ANNE: So, Rod, if you see a text message from ART, what should a member do if it just doesn't, in terms of making sure it looks right, or Rebecca, really, who wants to jump in on that one?

ROD: Call the fund ring up and say, I got this text because it could actually help the fund in helping other members to say, look, there is fraudulent activity out there, look out for these, so it's actually helping other members as well if you actually take action.

REBECCA: Take down the details as well, that's what I would say. What was the, how did you get the text message? What, what phone number did it come from? What email address did it come from? Maybe, rather than, because obviously we don't want you to click on things or forward the emails, but take a copy of it, so that you can provide it to us. So that when we're investigating something in the Financial Crimes team, we've got the data. We can then work with Information Security and our IT teams to look at the metadata behind these things and just interrogate it further.

ANNE: Are many members doing that now?

REBECCA: Yes, they are. We do receive messages through from our frontline staff telling us that the members have received random text messages, random emails. We had I think one the other day where it was a website that they weren't quite sure of if it was an Australian Retirement Trust website. So, our members are thinking in the right way. They are getting in touch with us. They are telling us when this is happening, we just need the data behind it. It's really difficult for us, too, because everything's digital these days.

ROD: I think as well if members get that text, not only call the fund, and talk to the fund, but it's really important to talk to family and friends as well, so they're aware and spread the word.

ANNE: Yes, okay, that's really good advice. So, a scam is something that's happening in superannuation, it's happening across, all across Australia, to your point, Rod. So, I guess final sort of wrap up around our listeners. If they're going to, if they're going to walk away from this, listening to this podcast, and do one or two things, they would be...

REBECCA: The one thing I tell anybody who'll listen to me is to think about your email. If you're going to get compromised, or if you're going to get hacked, it's likely that it's also going to happen in your email. And most of the time we think about how we interact with our emails, and we go, "I've deleted my emails, I've cleared out my inbox."" But what about your Sent items? Think about the things that you...

ANNE: I hadn't thought about Sent items.

REBECCA: Exactly.

ANNE: Yes, on my personal emails.

REBECCA: Think about what you're saving in that area of your emails. You're sending documents to your bank, you're sending documents to your super fund. They could contain completed claim forms, they could contain information that contains your bank details, they could contain certified identification documents. All of the pieces of information that make you vulnerable and would make it easy for somebody else to access your details, and your money.

ANNE: Yeah, okay, Rod, any ...

ROD: I think further to Rebecca's point about the Sent emails, that's the digital world, but also, we still get things on print, and we throw them in our garbage. So be really careful about what you throw in the bin, and if you can rip it up, if you don't have a shredder, or shred them.

Secondly, I think it always comes back to being vigilant and being aware, and there's a concept in Information Security of zero trust. And I think when it comes to these types of things with emails and text messages and so forth is to have that zero-trust mindset. And if you see something in there is to really be querying it and being vigilant and being aware and obviously your passwords, and your passwords as well.

ANNE: That's really good advice. I know when I walk Larry, who I often speak about, my dog, on Super Insider and you see unit blocks and there's, you can see all of these post boxes full of personal mail and all of these personal details, and I always worry about someone could easily just go and grab it, so that's another good call out, Rod.

Look, I think it's been wonderful having you here on the show, and the reason why this is so important, albeit we haven't been talking about investing and the economy, but this does so much impact you as members, our listeners, retiring well with confidence. These are your precious retirement savings. Obviously, it's our job here at Australian Retirement Trust to keep it safe. But as you've heard from our experts here today, it's also your role as well to really play a part in keeping your personal data safe. Rebecca, Rod, it's been marvelous having you on Super Insider. Have you enjoyed it?

ROD: It's been great, thank you Anne.

REBECCA: It's been interesting. It's been good.

ANNE: Excellent. You won't going tell me otherwise anyway, right? Let's be honest. To our viewers. Thanks again for joining us. You can listen to us on Spotify or obviously on your Apple Podcast as well. Thanks again and we'll see you soon.

This podcast is brought to you by Australian Retirement Trust Pty Ltd (ABN 88 010 720 840, AFSL No. 228975) the trustee for Australian Retirement Trust (ABN 60 905 115 063) (the Fund).