Up to 150 Australians have been the victims of attempts to defraud the government’s scheme allowing early access to superannuation.
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Reece Kershaw told the Select Committee on COVID-19 on Thursday that a cyber team at the AFP was investigating an “intrusion into a third party” in relation to the government scheme.
He said the AFP launched the investigation after receiving a referral from the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), which was tipped off by superannuation fund bodies.
The Australian Taxation Office said in a statement on Wednesday night that a handful of people appeared to have had their details used illegally in an attempt to defraud the program.
On Thursday, Mr Kershaw confirmed the AFP had “executed five search warrants in relation to this matter within our jurisdiction”.
“Our assessment so far is that there’s up to 150 victims of this particular fraud, and that we have actually identified some bank accounts and actually had those bank accounts frozen, with approximately $120,000 all up,” Mr Kershaw told the senate committee.
The commissioner said the AFP became aware of the fraudulent activity on May 1 and acted within 48 hours.
He said the AFP and affected superannuation funds were in the process of contacting affected customers, who might have had up to $10,000 taken from their accounts.
Mr Kershaw said the attack was “quite sophisticated” and might be linked to organised crime or an overseas entity.
He said he could not provide further details as he “did not want to tip off the offenders involved in this, given we have made no arrests at this stage”.
The ATO said it learned of the fraudulent activity on April 30 and informed the AFP within 24 hours.
ATO Commissioner Chris Jordan said the tax office’s systems had not been compromised.
The early access to super scheme allows eligible superannuation members who are suffering financial hardship to withdraw $10,000 from their super by June 30, 2020, and another $10,000 by September 24, 2020.
More than one million Australians have applied to access money under the scheme, with super funds so far paying out more than $9 billion.
Treasury deputy secretary Jenny Wilkinson told the senate committee super funds took an average of 1.6 days to pay out claims under the scheme after receiving referrals from the ATO.