How to avoid pension scams

STOP! If you’re offered early access to your pension or a transfer to a scheme that seems too good to be true, chances are, it is.

What is a pension scam?

There are people out there with a variety of tricks up their sleeves to try and hook you into transferring your pension funds into bogus schemes.

This might include:

  • contacting you out of the blue
  • offering free pension reviews and one-off investment opportunities with ‘guaranteed returns’
  • offering you cash upfront
  • speeding up the transfer of money over to the new scheme
  • claiming you can access your pension pot before the age of 55 (57 from 2028)
  • providing no copy documents
  • a professional looking website and convincing marketing material.

It’s good to note that well-known companies and government-backed bodies like Pension Wise won’t ever phone or text you to offer a pension review. (Pension Wise  is the government’s free and impartial retirement guidance service.)

Take a look at the Financial Conduct Authority’s webpage, Scamsmart to find out if you’ve been offered a scam in the form of an ‘investment deal’.

Don’t be fooled by pension scams

They may even tell you that the government has asked them to contact you and some of these advisers or their firms can be Financial Conduct Authority regulated, always double check before you sign a thing – use the contact details below if you are unsure.

You can lose a lifetime’s worth of saving. So stop and ask yourself:

“Could this be too good to be true?”

You can check if an adviser is registered by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) by visiting the FCA website.

Protecting yourself from fraud and phishing

Fraud and phishing: it’s vital to protect your personal details from fraudsters, especially when entering sensitive details relating to your finances.

We’re just as concerned about your personal details as you are.

What is phishing?

Phishing is the term used to describe criminals who want to access and use your personal details – usernames, passwords, credit cards and bank accounts. Fraudsters can gain access to your information from emails, letters through the post, cold calls or instant messages and text messages.

Be aware of the emails you receive – especially any that encourage you to open unknown attachments or website links.

Until recently, fraudsters have focussed their attention on business users. Now though, they’re pretending to have business knowledge in order to trick you into a false sense of security and share your personal details.

For example, they may ask for customer feedback, request information, provide links to information on cures, weight loss and prize draws, staff and legal notices.

How to handle phishing messages:

  • Be wary of door-to-door financial advisers.
  • Use your spam filter to protect your inbox by marking suspicious emails as spam and deleting them as soon as possible.
  • Don’t reply to unknown emails.
  • Keep personal information safe and hidden from others.
  • Seek advice or report the company or person who has contacted you to Action Fraud – a UK reporting centre specialising on fraud and internet crime.

To help us fight fraud, please keep your contact information up to date. And remember, we’ll never contact you by email to ask for your personal information.

Cold calls

Fraudsters who call you will say anything to get your personal details. We understand it can be hard to tell a genuine phone call from a fraudulent one. But failing to notice the differences could lead you to being vulnerable.

Here’s what we’ll never do:

  • ask for your password
  • ask for your login information or ask for your password to be reset by clicking on a web link
  • ask you questions relating to your family
  • speak in a rushed manner which leaves you no time to think or speak
  • redirect you to a premium rate service which charges you to call
  • send you a text message from an unknown number, which encourages you to call it
  • offer you ‘free’ or low cost ring tones
  • phone you with an automated message
  • phone or text you about a pension review
  • tell you what decisions you should be making – we cannot advise
  • use phrases such as ‘you’ve been specially selected,’ ‘you have to make a choice right away,’ ‘we’ll just put the handling charges on your credit card’ and ‘you trust me, right?’

Remember, if you’re unsure about the person calling you, don’t give them any of your information.

How to tell if you’ve been scammed

You may have been scammed if:

  • unexpected transactions appear in your bank account
  • money is unexpectedly withdrawn from your bank statement
  • you don’t receive an email you were told to expect
  • your credit card is cancelled or its limit exceeded.

Always remember:

  • banks will never ask for your details through email
  • it’s best to check that the company or person’s name matches with the email address they’re emailing from – a spelling mistake may suggest fraud
  • usually fraudsters won’t know your name, so watch out for formal greetings like ‘Dear Sir/Madam,’ ‘Dear customer,’ ‘Dear Recipient,’ ‘Dear youremail@address.co.uk’ and ‘New Member’
  • fraudulent emails may be grammatically incorrect and have spelling mistakes in either the ‘subject’ line or the email itself
  • fraudsters will usually want your valuable information urgently, so they may give a deadline and demand a quick reply from you.

What to do if you’re concerned about scams

Call The Pensions Advisory Service on 0300 123 1047 or visit www.pensionsadvisoryservice.org.uk.

If you have already been approached and signed a contract, call Action Fraud the UK’s national fraud and internet crime reporting centre – on 0300 123 2040.

Getting in touch with your pension provider in time might also prevent any unwanted transfer from going out.

You can find more about how to protect yourself from scammers on The Pensions Regulator’s website – where you can watch a video highlighting the devastating consequences for scam victims, and how to safeguard your savings against typical scammer tactics.

Plus you can download a booklet on avoiding pension scams in four steps from Pension Wise, Action Fraud and The Pensions Advisory Service.