Superannuation fraud is the latest earner for organised criminals who are robbing unsuspecting victims across Australia, according to the chief of the NSW Police Fraud Squad.
The latest scam is especially popular among criminal gangs, he said, because victims remain unaware for years that they have been duped.
Criminals are suing a range of techniques including phishing in order to first steal the identity of victims before transferring their superannuation into self managed accounts, said Fraud Squad Commander Detective Superintendent Col Dyson.
"Superannuation fraud is emerging and the difference is that it works well because no-one checks their super," Dyson said.
"This fraud is quick. It's easy to move super from large companies to a self-managed fund and then remove to cash."
Victims rarely notice account changes, making it easy for criminals to change mailing addresses.
Worse, victims may not be reimbursed.
"Superannuation funds are under no obligation to reimburse victims," Pauline Vamos, chief executive officer of the Association of Superannuation Funds (ASFA) said.
Australian banks voluntarily reimburse customers who fall victim to financial scams.
Vamos said criminals will siphon superannuation into self managed funds or apply for hardship payments. "Criminals steal identities and falsify hardship documents to get early payments."
Identity rules around self managed funds and hardship payments are weak. The bank accounts receiving the stolen funds are not checked against existing records and can be in multiple names.
But changes are in the works. The Federal Government has mandated that superannuation funds toughen identity requirements by year's end, and the Australian Tax Office has already refused to pay into accounts owned by more than one holder, Vamos said.
Security boffins employed by superannuation funds have formed an informal and secretive community to exchange confidential information about the latest "tricks" used by criminals.
For its part, ASFA had issued warnings to superannuation funds when they are due to issue statements.
Dyson pointed out that the scam is uncommon, but is emerging and the public should be aware of the threat.
"Check your super details and look for changes."
Dressed to steal
Organised criminals focus their identity theft efforts on Australia's affluent regions, pillaging mailboxes of the wealthy to maximise fraud efforts, according to the NSW Fraud Squad.
Sydney groups have sent well-dressed individuals to raid mailboxes in the North Shore region.
Mail is taken to central location where it is sorted and an identity profile can be built.
Once enough is known about an individual, superannuation fraud and other scams can be launched.
Dyson said mortgage fraud, where properties are greatly overvalued or title deeds are stolen, remains a problem.
Scammers last year sold a Western Australian man's house and stole the $500,000 proceeds using property documents and a hacked email account that was previously used to communicate with the agent.