by Alan Thornhill
How could money from your carefully managed superannuation account end up financing organised crime overseas?
We don’t have to speculate about this.
All the details of an actual crime, like this, are spelt out in a report, the Federal government has just published, called Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing Risk Assessment.
Its conclusions are chilling.
It said this example was provided by a superannuation fund that was hit by “a significant cyber enabled fraud attack on a post-preservation account.”
The report added: “An overseas-based organised crime group hacked into a fund member’s home computer and had access to all personal details, emails, banking details, travel plans and other information.
“It also monitored transactions from the individual’s superannuation fund.”
(Let’s call him Jack).
“When the member went overseas for a holiday, the crime group made an online request from the member’s email address for a variation of payment, and diverted the member’s Australian phone number to an overseas number.
“The request was made soon after the fund had created a new online functionality for members to change their payment amounts and the frequency of payments.”
t was all too easy, up to this point.
As they say in the trade, if you have the passwords, you have everything.
But not this time.
As the report notes: “the online request triggered the fund’s ‘member call back’ control mechanism to verify that the member had made the request.”
And it added: “when the fund’s call centre staff called the member, the phone displayed the member’s Australian home telephone, so they did not realise that they had called an overseas phone number.
“The fraudster was able to impersonate the member and pass the customer verification procedures.
“The fraudster made changes to the payment amount stating that they required a one-off lump sum payment and would then revert to the normal pattern of payments.
“The one-off lump sum payment was subsequently made to the member’s bank account.”
Things weren’t looking good, at that point.
But they quickly improved.
As the report said: “before the criminal group could arrange for the money to be sent offshore, the member became aware of unusual transactions and changes to their bank account and called the superannuation fund.
“Fortunately, the lump sum payment was frozen in their bank account and the member did not lose their savings.
“The fund worked closely with the state police on the investigation of the attempted theft.”
That was one for the good guys.
But with some $1.26 trillion in the assets of our superannuation funds, it would be reckless to assume that this would always be so.
Especially as many of us are not in the habit or watching our super closely.
However there are those who do.
These include Michael Keenan the Federal Minister for Justice and members of his investigatory task force, Austrac.
They also financing terrorism as a still relatively small, but real threat to the industry.
But what can you do, to protect your investment in super?
Quite a lot, actually.
Above all, keep an eye out for unusual transactions on your account.
And report them quickly, if you see some.
Weathercoast by Alan Thornhill
A novel on the murder of seven young Anglican Christian Brothers in the Solomon Islands.
Available now on the iTunes store.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
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