Superannuation scams are schemes which 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 years old to 60, 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 is 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 offers may come from a financial adviser (or 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 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.
If you're under the age of 55 watch out for offers to quickly and easily arrange for your preserved superannuation benefits to be paid out in cash.
The first thing to do if you receive one of these offers is contact your superannuation fund and ASIC or the Australian Taxation Office and report that you have been approached by an early release scheme.
If you want independent advice about your superannuation speak to a financial planner. Remember to make sure they are licensed by ASIC. You could also seek advice and information from other sources, such as your lawyer, employer or union representative.
If you are experiencing severe financial hardship or believe you should have access to your super early for another reason, ask your own superannuation fund for some information. Do not rely on the promoter of the early release scheme.
Remember that in the past dodgy financial advisers have taken a large proportion of people's super funds, and that if you illegally access your super early, you may face financial penalties under the taxation law.