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ATO issues SMSF scam alert

ATO scams SMSFs

The ATO has warned individuals to remain vigilant following an increase in cold-calling scams focused around SMSFs.

The ATO has warned consumers to be cautious about unsolicited advice in regards to SMSFs after it noted an increase in scams involving fake superannuation investments from people posing as financial advisers or super experts.

The regulator stated scammers were contacting victims via phone and email to encourage individuals to invest their super in a supposed high-performing SMSFs.

“These scammers will start by asking you for some information and may ask you to do a super comparison online. They are likely to be persistent and may contact you multiple times,” the regulator noted on its website.

“Sometimes, they will fraudulently use the name and Australian financial services licence of a real business and set up a fake website to appear legitimate.”

It added scammers have been telling people it was unnecessary to directly contact the ATO, Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) or other financial advice professionals, and warned those who agree to invest will find their superannuation transferred out of their fund and stolen.

Individuals have been advised to remain vigilant before providing personal or financial information as even if the victim rejects the approach of the scammers, if enough information is provided, it can be used to transfer super funds without the victim knowing.

To avoid such circumstances, the ATO suggested individuals check the ASIC Professional Register to ensure whoever contacted them is licensed, conduct an independent online search to verify their identity or check with another registered tax professional.

It also said scammers may impersonate the regulator over the phone, claiming a tax debt exists and must be paid immediately.

While the regulator contacts individuals via phone, email and SMS, it stated it would not “send a pre-recorded message to your phone, threaten you with immediate arrest, demand payment through unusual methods like gift cards or payments to personal bank accounts and insist you stay on the line until a payment is made”.

Individuals who are unsure of whether they are being scammed should contact the ATO either via phone or email.

In October, ATO SMSF risk and strategy assistant commissioner Justin Micale said identity fraud was becoming a more common issue in the SMSF sector and the regulator was issuing alerts to SMSF trustees regarding any significant changes to their funds.

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