Over 5 million savers at risk from pension scams across the UK

Pedro Gonçalves
Over 5 million savers at risk from pension scams across the UK

More than 5 million pension savers are at risk of being conned as fraudsters increasingly target people's retirement cash pots, regulators have warned.

A report commissioned by the Financial Conduct Authority and The Pensions Regulator has found that 42% of pension savers, which equates to over 5 million people, could be in danger of losing out from criminal tricks such as cold calls and time-limited offers.

Research suggests people could fall for at least one of six common tactics used by pension scammers.

Tactics used include cold calls, "free" pension reviews, claims of guaranteed high returns, time-limited offers and early access to cash before the age of 55. Investing in high-risk assets such as overseas property, renewable energy bonds, forestry, storage units or biofuels, that are unlikely to be suitable for pension savings, was another regularly-used trap.

And despite the government banning pension cold-calls in January, 23% of those surveyed said they would talk with a cold caller that wanted to discuss their pension plans.

Regulators say the likelihood of being drawn into one or more scams increased to 60% among those who say they were actively looking for ways to boost their retirement income.

Last year, 180 people reported to Action Fraud that they had been the victim of a pension scam, losing on average of £82,000 each, the regulators said.

Nicola Parish, executive director at The Pensions Regulator, said: "Scammers don't care who they prey on or how many lives they wreck. If you ignore the warning signs you put yourself at risk of losing your savings."

Pensions minister Guy Opperman says: "Pensions are one of the largest and most important investments we'll ever make, and robbing someone of their retirement is nothing short of despicable.

"We know we can beat these callous crooks, because getting the message out there does work. Last year's pension scams awareness campaign prevented hundreds of people from losing as much as £34m, and I'm backing this year's effort to be bigger and better as we build a generation of savvy savers."

FCA executive director of enforcement and market oversight Mark Steward added: "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."

He added: "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."

The FCA and TPR have warned savers to reject any unexpected pension offers whether they are made online, on social media or over the phone.

The regulators also stressed that individuals should check the FCA register to see whether a firm is registered before changing any pension arrangements and to get advice before making any decisions.

All figures are from survey consultants Censuswide that conducted the online survey of 2,012 adults aged 45-65 with a pension between 24-28 June 2019.


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