As soon as it became easier for people to access large chunks of money in one go - they became a target of scammers

Since the government introduced pension freedoms in April 2015, people who have saved for retirement can access their money more easily. But this makes them increasingly attractive to scammers.

coinsOne in 10 people aged 55-plus fear they have been targeted by scammers since the introduction of pension freedoms, according to research from Prudential in May.¹ The Pensions Administration Standards Association estimated last year that pension savers have lost more than £1 billion to scams.

Therefore, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have launched ScamSmart to help people recognise some of the tricks that fraudsters use.

Avoiding common pension scams

Typically, scammers try to persuade people to hand over their savings with the promise of something that sounds too good to be true. Phrases such as 'guaranteed returns' should ring alarm bells. These 'dead cert' investments are often overseas so even if the scammers follow through on their promise and invest the money in these exotic-sounding schemes rather than just running off with it, UK consumer protection law has no jurisdiction over them.

Anybody persuaded to release a pension pot to one of these high-risk schemes will end up without any protection if things turn sour. This ‘too-good-to-be-true’ approach is often accompanied by pressure-selling techniques, perhaps including warnings that it’s a time-limited offer.

piggy-bankPensions are for the long term and decisions should not be made under pressure. Any reputable player will know this. So, if someone is presented with 'time-limited documents' or told it’s a once-in-a-lifetime offer, it should send a signal to steer clear.


Cold calls are almost always an indicator of a scam. If you receive a call, email or text message promising a great deal, you should hang up or delete it.

Crooks behind pension scheme scams are no less cunning than any other fraudsters – they will often try to mask their deceit under the cloak of respectability. Sometimes they tell outright lies, claiming to be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) or Pension Wise for example. If this sort of claim is made it’s usually easy to check with a call to the relevant body.

More advanced fraudsters will attempt to give an air of respectability to their appearance and marketing literature – tricks designed to ensnare unwitting people. Another red flag is if the only method of contact provided is a PO Box or mobile phone number.


What can you do to protect yourself?

people1The FCA’s ScamSmart website has a link to their register for you to check the list of registered financial advisers. It also has a list of unauthorised firms and individuals, as well as a warning list about certain investments. Using FCA-registered advisers should give you protection against mis-selling.

Most importantly, if you are unsure, please contact Punter Southall Focus by phone or email and explain your concerns. It is in everybody’s best interest to do all we can to stop these scams and we would be happy to offer guidance. It is why you work with a trusted Financial Adviser, so that they can help and support you through any financial concerns you may have.

 

¹ https://www.ftadviser.com/pensions/2018/05/04/one-in-10-targeted-by-scammers-post-pension-freedoms/

² https://www.ftadviser.com/pensions/2017/10/19/pension-scams-steal-1bn-from-savers/

Posted by Steve Butler

Topics: Pensions

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