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Pension Scammers: Spot The Warning Signs

Don’t lose your life savings or be persuaded to invest in high-risk schemes

Don’t let scammers enjoy your hard-earned pension proceeds. Anyone can be the victim of a pension scam, no matter how savvy they think they are. It’s important that everyone can spot the warning signs.

Latest figures show that nearly one in ten over-55s fear they have been targeted by suspected scammers since the launch of pension freedoms, new research[1] shows. Cold-calling has been used by fraudsters trying to steal life savings or persuade people to invest in high-risk schemes.
Some 10.9 million unsolicited pension calls and messages are made a year, according to Citizens Advice. The new research suggests people could fall for at least one of six common tactics used by pension scammers.

Claims of guaranteed high returns
These include pension cold calls, free pension reviews, claims of guaranteed high returns and exotic investments. They also include time-limited offers and early access to cash before the age of 55 that can tempt savers into risking their retirement income.

Exotic or unusual investments are high-risk and unlikely to be suitable for pension savings. But worryingly, nearly a quarter (23%) of the 45-65-year-olds questioned say they would be likely to pursue these exotic opportunities if offered them.

Gaining early access to pension monies
Helping savers to access their pensions early also proved to be a persuasive scam tactic. One in six (or 17%) of 45-54-year-old pension savers say they would be interested in an offer from a company that claimed it could help them gain early access to their pension monies. Of all those surveyed, 23% say they would talk with a cold caller who wanted to discuss their pension plans, despite the Government’s ban on pension cold-calls this January.

The FCA and the Pensions Regulator have warned that 42% of pension savers, equivalent to five million people, could be at risk of pension scams. The study found 9% of over-55s say they have been approached about their pension funds by people they now believe to be scammers since the rules came into effect from April 2015. Offers to unlock or transfer funds are tactics commonly used to defraud people of their retirement savings.

Being defrauded of savings is a major concern
One in three (33%) of over-55s say the risk of being defrauded of their savings is a major concern following pension freedoms. However, nearly half (49%) of those approached say they did not report their concerns because they did not know how to report or were unaware of who they could report the scammers to.

Most recent pension fraud data[2] from ActionFraud, the national fraud and cybercrime reporting service, shows 991 cases have been reported since the launch of pension freedoms involving losses of more than £22.687 million.

Approached by suspected scammers
The research found fewer than one in five (18%) of those approached by suspected scammers had reported their fears to authorities. Nearly half (47%) said the approaches involved offers to unlock pension funds or access money early, and 44% said they involved transferring pensions.
About 28% of those targeted by suspected fraudsters were offered alternative investments such as wine, and 20% say they were offered overseas investments, while 13% say scammers had suggested investing in crypto-currencies. Around 6% believe they have been victims of fraud.

Lucrative opportunity for fraudsters
Pension freedoms, though enormously popular with consumers, have created a potentially lucrative opportunity for fraudsters, and people need to be vigilant to safeguard their hard-earned retirement savings. If it sounds too good to be true, then it usually is, and people should be sceptical of investments that are offering unusually high rates of return or which invest in unorthodox products which may be difficult to understand.
Retirement savers can report suspected frauds on the ActionFraud helpline 0300 123 1047 or online at www.actionfraud.police.uk/report_fraud, and more advice is available at www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk/pension-scams or by calling the Pensions Advisory Service on 0300 123 1047.

Source data:
[1] Consumer Intelligence conducted an independent online survey for Prudential between 23 and 25 February 2018 among 1,000 UK adults aged 55+ including those who are working and retired
[2] www.actionfraud.police.uk/fraud-az-pension-liberation-scam

Important notes:
1) The value of investments and income from them may go down. You may not get back the original amount invested.
2) Accessing pension benefits early may impact on levels of retirement income and your entitlement to certain means tested benefits and is not suitable for everyone. You should seek advice to understand your options at retirement.

Posted: October 21, 2019

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