Don’t let a scammer enjoy your retirement
15 August 2019
Pension scams can be hard to spot. Scammers can be articulate, personable and financially knowledgeable, with credible websites, testimonials and materials that are hard to distinguish from the real thing.
Scams are fraud, which is a criminal offence and can result in up to 10 years imprisonment.
How pension scams work
Scammers usually contact people out of the blue via phone, email or text. They may advertise online or in the small ads of reputable publications.
They design attractive offers, normally in the form of high interest rates or impossible to achieve returns on investment, to entice you to invest all or a substantial part of your pension pot earned over a lifetime of hard work. The monies may then be:
- Invested in unusual and high-risk investments like overseas property, renewable energy bonds, forestry, storage units;
- Invested in more conventional products, but within an unnecessarily complex structure which hides multiple fees and high charges payable to the scammer or their company by way of commission; or
- Simply stolen and the scammer disappears.
The warning signs
Scam offers often include:
- Free pension reviews;
- Higher returns - guarantees they can get you better returns on your pension savings;
- Help to release cash from your pension, even though you’re under 55 (an offer to release funds before age 55 is highly likely to be a scam);
- High pressure sales tactics - the scammers may try to pressure you with ‘time limited offers’ or even send a courier to your door to wait while you sign documents;
- Unusual investments - which tend to be unregulated and high risk, and may be difficult to sell if you need access to your money;
- Complicated structures where it isn’t clear where your money will end up;
- Long-term pension investments – which mean it could be several years before you realise something is wrong.
4 simple steps to protect yourself from pension scams
Step 1 - Reject unexpected offers
If you’re contacted out of the blue about a pension opportunity, chances are its high risk or a scam. If you get a cold call about your pension, always hang up as it’s illegal to cold call in respect of a pension product, no reputable company would do so and it is therefore always a scam.
Be wary of offers of free pension reviews. Professional advice on pensions always comes with a fee as it requires expertise and is time consuming to ensure you are given the right advice. A free offer out of the blue from a company you have not dealt with before is probably a scam.
Never be talked into an investment by someone you know. They could be being scammed without being aware and therefore always check everything yourself independently of a friend, colleague or family advice.
Step 2 - Check who you’re dealing with
- Check the Financial Services Register to make sure that anyone offering you advice or other financial services is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and they are permitted to provide those services in relation to pensions. If you need any help checking, call the FCA Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768;
- Check they are not a clone - a common scam is to pretend to be a genuine FCA authorised firm (called a ‘clone firm’). Always use the contact details on the Register, not the details the firm gives you.
Step 3 - Don’t be rushed or pressured
- Take your time to make all the checks you need – even if this means turning down an ‘amazing deal’. Be wary of promised returns that sound too good to be true and don’t be rushed or pressured into making a decision.
Step 4 - Get impartial information or advice
You should seriously consider seeking financial guidance or advice before changing your pension arrangements.
Wise offers pre-booked appointments to talk through your retirement options;
- Financial advisers - It’s important you make the best decision for your own personal circumstances so you should seriously consider using the services of a financial adviser. If you do opt for an adviser, be sure to use an adviser that is regulated by the FCA and never take advice from the company that contacted you or from someone they recommend, as this may be part of the scam.
If you suspect a scam, report it;
- If you've agreed to transfer your pension and now suspect a scam, contact your pension provider straight away. They may be able to stop a transfer that hasn't taken place yet. If you are unsure of what to do contact The Pensions Advisory Service for help on 0800 011 3797.
Be ScamSmart with your pension. To find out more, visit www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart
Scams are fraud, and fraud damages lives not just bank accounts.
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