Pension scams are on the increase in the UK. Check the facts before you make an irreversible decision - a lifetime's savings can be lost in a moment.
In particular, beware of people contacting you out of the blue about your pension or running advertisements claiming to offer 'free pension reviews'. Their aim is to persuade you to cash in your pension pot and hand the money to them to invest. Doing so could result in the total loss of the money in your pension pot and obligations to pay hidden fees. These outfits may be very sophisticated and have convincing websites. Some may imply that they are part of the government-backed Pension Wise guidance service by including the terms 'pension' and 'wise' or 'guidance' in their name.
- Try to persuade you to take your entire pension as cash - or a large lump sum - and let them invest it for you
- Promise extra tax savings and/or very high returns from overseas investments or new or 'creative' investments
- Claim to know of loopholes that will allow you to get more than the usual 25% of tax-free cash
- Say they can help you or someone else unlock your pension before age 55
- Encourage you to transfer your pension quickly, and even send documents to you by courier
Once you've transferred your pension, it may be too late. Many victims have lost their entire pension savings to scams. Even if you don't lose your money, you could be asked to pay a large tax bill for accessing your pension funds before your 55th birthday. If you are over 55, you could still be targeted, so remember to be cautious about any offers that sound too good to be true.
How to spot a scam
As well as the points above, watch out for one or more these common features of a scam:
Check the credentials of anyone who contacts you
- Being approached out of the blue over the phone, via text message or in person door-to-door
- You aren't given long to make a decision or you feel pressured into making one immediately
- The only contact details they give you or on their website are a mobile phone number and a PO box address
- A firm doesn't want or won't allow you to call them back
- They offer unrealistic returns on your investment
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) requires all firms offering financial products or advice to be registered with them to conduct business. If you're unsure about a firm that has contacted you, use the FCA's online firm check services at www.fca.gov.uk/register
or call them on 0800 111 6768.
To be sure it's the same firm call them back on the switchboard number given on the FCA's website - not any other number they may give you.
If you think you've been scammed, or have been contacted by someone trying to scam you, contact the Financial Conduct Authority Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768.
If you have accepted an offer or lost money to investment fraud, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2050 or online at www.actionfraud.police.uk.