The ‘super scammers’ thieving personal
financial information from Sydney
letterboxes have stripped millions from members’ balances, and the amount is
rising, according to the NSW police unit investigating the crime.“We’re talking
seven figures, and it’s increasing,” Andrew Gill, detective senior constable with
Strike Force Gamut of the Harbourside Police, the unit investigating the criminal
syndicate accused of the crimes, said.
Since the scam was first reported in national
media on May 17, Harbourside Police had received a flood of calls from people
concerned that their super accounts had been raided by the group, Gill said. As Investment
& Technology went to press, six men and two women
had been arrested and charged by the strike force on multiple charges of fraud. “Now
we’ve got eight people for 545 charges,” Gill said. Strike Force Gamut has been
investigating the group since August 2008.
It alleges the group had stolen
cheques, banking statements and other financial data from residential letterboxes
and used the information to create fake identification documents, such as drivers’ licences
and Medicare cards, to open bogus bank accounts through which stolen money was
laundered and funnelled offshore. But the group had “morphed,” Gill said, and
police were investigating whether they had fleeced Sydney siders of their
Police allege the group took superannuation member
statements from letterboxes and used the accumulated financial data to set up
fraudulent self managed super funds (SMSFs) and attached bank accounts, into which
they transferred members’ existing balances from funds, before moving the money offshore.
Jensen, chief executive officer of AUSTRAC, the government body responsible for
protecting Australia’s financial
system from money laundering and terrorism financing, refused to comment
specifically on details of the investigation but said it would contact banks to
draw their attention to the criminal activity and reiterate their obligations under
anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism fighting (AML/CTF) legislation.
Investment and Financial Services Association (IFSA) is working with the NSW
Police in its investigation of the group, since the crimes are in the remit of
its IT fraud and security group, according to IFSA deputy John O’Shaughnessy. Law
enforcement agencies at the state and federal level often participate in the
group’s meetings. SMSFs are established and administered through the Australian
Tax Office (ATO).
To transfer a whole superannuation balance from a fund into an
SMSF, trustees of the self-managed vehicles must submit a portability form to the
ATO. To prove their identity, SMSF trustees must present either adriver’s
licence or passport. For general super funds, there was not a standard
identification verification test that members must passin order to withdraw
their balances, O’Shaughnessy said.“You need to retain the balance between
maintaining good service and what the members want.
Because of that balance,
security will never be 100per cent. You don’t want to have it so tight so that
it inhibits the member from doing what they want to do.”The federal minister for
superannuation,Nick Sherry, said the balances of members of super funds
regulated by APRA were safe.