We have previously written on a number of occasions about the risks of internet-driven identity theft and perhaps, more importantly, the theft of our hard-earned savings.
But did you know that thousands of Australians have indirectly ‘given’ billions of dollars of their super to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO)?
This is not something that we do consciously, but it happens every day of the week.
What often happens is that when we start a new job, our employer will ask us to provide a heap of information like our address, tax file number, who to contact in the event of an emergency, bank account details – so they can pay us, and details of our super fund.
Unfortunately, our super fund and account number is not information we have indelibly printed in our minds, and in reality, we wouldn’t know where to find the information anyway. So, rather than trying to find the details, we simply allow our new employer to send their superannuation guarantee contributions off to the ‘default fund’. Yes, every employer must have one.
So, we work away for a couple of years and then, in the interests of bettering ourselves, we change jobs.
And, unless we are very diligent, when we start the new job, we enter the same cycle with our super and end up with yet another superannuation fund.
Not surprisingly 40% of Australians have more than one super fund.
It is therefore not uncommon for people to become disconnected with their super, particularly when changing jobs or changing addresses, as we all do from time to time.
When superannuation becomes lost or when benefits are not claimed by members when entitled to do so and super funds are unable to contact their members, the super funds are required by law to send the accumulated savings of their ‘lost’ members to the ATO.
As a result, at the end of June 2017, the ATO was holding around $16bn of lost and unclaimed super.
Now, believe it or not, the ATO would love to reunite this lost super with its rightful owners.
So, how do you go about finding your lost super?
There are a couple of ways you can do this:
- Log on to your myGov account (if you have one) (mygov.gov.au) and go to the ATO section. Click on the ‘super’ tab and it will display all the super details the ATO has for you. If you don’t have a myGov account, it is easy to create one.
- If wishing to rely on ‘old technology’, you can fill in a form and send it to the ATO to complete your search for you. The form can be found here: ATO | Claiming Lost Super Form.
- Many superannuation funds will conduct a search for lost super for their fund members.
- Likewise, many financial planners will also help their clients search for their lost super.
In its endeavour to reunite even more Australians with their unclaimed super, the ATO has announced that it will be embarking on a campaign using email, letters, and SMS (text) messages.
Sadly, however, there are some opportunists who will see this ATO initiative as an invitation to scam hard-working taxpayers. We can expect that scammers will be out in some force purporting to be from the ATO, or simply offering to assist people to find their lost super. To do this, the scammers will need to obtain some personal details from you. Avoid them at all cost and never give personal information to anyone you don’t know.
The ATO has gone on the public record of stating they will never use email or text messages to update taxpayer’s personal information, including supplying ABN or credit card details.
If you think you may have lost or unclaimed super, consider having a conversation with your financial planner who will guide you along the correct path.2