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Beware promoters of early super access schemes, ATO warns

Super

Vulnerable people are targets for scammers offering to help set up an SMSF as a way to get a hold of savings illegally.

By Miranda Brownlee 9 minute read

The ATO is warning superannuation members to be wary of anyone purportedly wanting to help set up an SMSF for the purpose of early access to super.

It said those promoters of such schemes targeted vulnerable people with suggestions their super could be used to pay down credit card debt or help with a large purchase such as a car.

The ATO said accessing super before retirement or preservation age was illegal and could incur substantial penalties. It has published a fact sheet to highlight the risks.

“As a trustee of a SMSF it is your responsibility to ensure that if you are accessing your super early, you are doing this within super laws,” the ATO said.

“Be careful if someone offers to help you access your super early. Some people may say they can help you set up an SMSF so you can access your super for reasons such as paying off your credit card, buying a house or to go on a holiday. This is not true, it is illegal.”

“These people will often charge you a lot of money, tell you to transfer some or all your super from your existing super fund to the SMSF and tell you that you can use as much as you need for personal expenses.”

The ATO warned there was also a danger of identity theft with these schemes.

“These promoters may also ask for your personal information. If you give it to them, they can steal your identity. With your personal information, they can steal your super for themselves,” the ATO warned.

“Do not agree to anything and do not sign any documents or give them your personal details.

“Don’t access your super before you retire unless you meet one of the conditions that makes it legal to access your super and receive relevant approval.”

Last year, ATO assistant commissioner SMSF risk and strategy Justin Micale said an increasing number of trustees were taking advantage of direct access to their superannuation bank account to pay off business debts, holidays, renovations and cars.

Mr Micale said the ATO was stepping up its focus on licensed and unlicensed promoters of illegal early access schemes.

“This behaviour is unacceptable particularly as we know promoters often target people who are in vulnerable communities, under financial pressure and with low financial and super literacy,” he said.

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