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Five million pension savers at risk to scammers

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Written by: Emma Lunn
07/08/2019
New figures show cold calls, exotic investments and early access to cash among most persuasive tactics used by fraudsters.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and The Pensions Regulator (TPR) have joined forces to warn the public about fraudsters targeting people’s retirement savings.

FCA research found that 42 per cent of pension savers – about 5 million people – could be at risk of falling for at least one of six common tactics used by pension scammers. The figure rises to 60 per cent for people who are actively looking for ways to boost their retirement income.

The regulator has warned that pension cold calls, free pension reviews, claims of guaranteed high returns, exotic investments, time-limited offers and early access to cash before the age of 55 could all tempt savers into risking their retirement income. It found the average victim of pension fraud in 2018 lost £82,000.

Worryingly, the FCA found that people who consider themselves financially savvy are just as likely to fall for fraudsters’ lies as anyone else.

Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of the 45 to 65-year-olds questioned said they would be likely to pursue exotic opportunities such as overseas property, renewable energy bonds, forestry, storage units or biofuels if offered them. However, these types of investments are high risk and unlikely to be suitable for pension savings.

Another common scam tactic was the offer to access pension savings before the age of 55. One in six (17 per cent) 45 to 54-year-old pension savers said they would be interested in early access to their pension. However, accessing your pension before 55 is likely to result in a large tax bill and is rarely advisable.

Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of all those surveyed said they’d talk with a cold caller that wanted to discuss their pension plans, despite the government’s ban on pension cold calls this January.

The FCA and TPR are urging pension savers to be ScamSmart and to check who they are dealing with before making any decision on their pension.

Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, said: “It doesn’t matter the size of your pension pot – scammers are after your savings. Get to know the warning signs, and before making any decision about your pension, be ScamSmart and check you are dealing with an FCA authorised firm.”

Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell, said: “While huge strides have been made in tackling pension and investment fraud recently, particularly when it comes to raising awareness among consumers, this research shows a worryingly large number of people are at risk of falling victim to common tactics used by fraudsters.

“Scammers’ tactics are evolving all the time and increasingly we see complex schemes promoted online through social media. This virtual Wild West is a natural home for fraudsters, with governments around the world struggling to create meaningful protections for consumers. Education about the dangers of scams and actions people can take to protect themselves is therefore absolutely critical.”

Pension savers can test how ScamSmart they are by taking a new quiz on the ScamSmart site.

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