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Five million pension savers could put their retirement savings at risk to scammers

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and The Pensions Regulator (TPR) are joining forces again this summer to warn the public about fraudsters targeting people’s retirement savings. This warning comes as new research suggests that 42%1 of pension savers, which would equate over 5 million2 people across the UK, could be at risk of falling for at least one of six common tactics used by pension scammers.

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

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.

The research also found that those who consider themselves smart or financially savvy are just as likely to be persuaded by these tactics as anyone else.

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

Helping savers to access their pensions early also proved to be a persuasive scam tactic. One in six (17%) 45-54-year-old pension savers said they would be interested in an offer from a company that claimed it could help them get early access to their pension. However, accessing your pension before 55 is likely to result in a large tax bill for the saver.

23% 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. Nearly a quarter said they would ask for website details, request further information or find out what they’re offering, even if the call came out of the blue.

Victims of pension fraud reported in 2018 that they had lost an average of £82,0003. Pension fraud can be devastating, as victims can lose their life savings and be left facing retirement with limited income. As a result, the regulators are joining forces to urge pension savers to be ScamSmart and to check who they are dealing with before making any decision on their pension. Last year’s ScamSmart campaign resulted in more than 3705 people being warned about unauthorised firms. This year’s campaign is currently running on TV, radio and online.

Guy Opperman, Minister for Pensions and Financial Inclusion said: “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 £34 million, and I’m backing this year’s effort to be bigger and better as we build a generation of savvy savers.”

Mark Steward, Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight, FCA, 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.”

The regulators recommend four simple steps to protect yourself from pension scams:

  1. Reject unexpected pension offers whether made online, on social media or over the phone
  2. Check who you’re dealing with before changing your pension arrangements – check the FCA Register or call the FCA contact centre on 0800 111 6768 to see if the firm you are dealing with is authorised by the FCA
  3. Don’t be rushed or pressured into making any decision about your pension
  4. Consider getting impartial information and advice

Pension savers can test how ScamSmart they are by taking a new quiz on the ScamSmart site. Visit www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart to find out more.

 

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from Censuswide. The total sample size was 2,012 adults aged 45-65 with a pension. Fieldwork was undertaken between 24-28 June 2019. The survey was carried out online. The 42% figure is the percentage of the respondents who would take at least one or more actions that could expose them to a pension scam, when presented with six scam scenarios.  Population data is indicative based on FCA Financial Lives pension holder data. For more info: https://www.fca.org.uk/publications/research/understanding-financial-lives-uk-adults.  

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