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How to avoid a pension scam

woman with phone

Pensions are valuable assets that can help shape our financial future. But, like anything valuable, our pensions can become the target for illegal activities, scams or offers of unrealistic and inappropriate investments. With the news that one in ten over 50s are targetted by scammers, there's no time like the present to get clued up on how to avoid a scam. Here are 10 easy precautions you can keep up your sleeve.


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1. How do I know it's a pension scam?

Often scammers will call out of the blue offering a 'free pension review'. No reputable organisation, including Government services such as Pension Wise, would ever do such a thing – the chances are they are simply laying the groundwork to steal your money. It's now illegal for anyone to cold-call you about your pension so don't talk to them. Just hang up!


2. Research the pension company

If an offer promises 'guaranteed' returns or seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be on your guard. Do your homework and check all the details before signing anything.


3. Things aren't always what they seem

Don't be lured by smart brochures and professional looking websites. Scammers want to trick you and this is one way they do it. Check everything and seek reputable advice.


4. Don't be rushed into a decision

Pushy saleswoman

Scammers will try to pressure you with time limited offers and create a sense of urgency. Take your time to make all the checks you need, even if this means turning down an 'amazing' deal. Chances are it isn't that amazing after all. Once you've handed over the money it will be too late.  


5. Friends aren't always right

Don't choose a scheme just because someone you know has. People have fallen for scams because they'd been 'recommended by a friend'. As with any important decisions, investigate the details and seek reputable advice so you know what you're getting into.


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6. Beware of investing all your money in one place

This will increase your risk, but scammers often ask for all of your money. Be on your guard against unregulated investments, including those abroad. Bear in mind that some deals may be too good to be true!


7. If in doubt, call The Pensions Advisory Service

You can call them on 0300 123 1047 or visit their website for free pensions guidance. If you're aged 50 or over and have a defined contribution pension, why not book a free appointment with Pension Wise, the free impartial guidance service? Call 0800 138 3944 to book a telephone or face-to-face appointment or visit the website at www.pensionwise.gov.uk.


8. Is the 'advisor' FCA approved?

Scammers can pose as pension advisers, so check to make sure yours is registered on the Financial Conduct Authority’s website: www.fca.org.uk/register. It's a simple check that could make all the difference.


9. Also, the FCA has a list of known scams - check it out!

Scam warning

To find out more about the threats and risks, visit their website, and for more tips on protecting your retirement savings, visit www.tpr.gov.uk/scams or https://www.pensionwise.gov.uk/scams.


10. Finally, if you think you've been scammed, call Action Fraud

You can reach them on 0300 123 2040 or report a scam by using their online tool. Also, contact your pension provider immediately as they may be able to stop a transfer that hasn't yet taken place.


Other things to watch out for

  • Reluctance for you to call them - reputable companies will always take your call and are happy to phone you back. Scammers are not happy to be contacted.
  • The suggestion it is a Government initiative - companies claiming to be backed by Government are making false claims.
  • Free 'pension reviews' - this is a false offer to hook you in.
  • Claims to have found a legal loophole - there is no such thing.
  • Offers of early access to your pension pot...especially before the age of 55.
  • Offers to help you access your whole pension pot as a cash lump sum - even once the law changed in April 2015 to allow you greater freedom to access your pension, you must still be aware of the tax implications of accessing your entire pension pot.
  • Offering an unrealistic rate of interest - if someone offers you a rate of 8% or more guaranteed investment return, be very wary.

For more information, please go to www.pension-scams.com. Or, if you are worried that you have been targeted by a scammer it's definitely worth contacting The Pensions Advisory Service on 0300 123 1047 -  or if you think you have already have been a victim, contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.


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