Jonathan Watts-Lay, director of WEALTH at work explains how individuals can avoid losing their pension to scams and fraudsters.
The government have announced that the Pensions Cold Call ban will be delayed until autumn this year. It’s time to send a clear message to pension scammers that they will not be tolerated, so the sooner the government implements this ban, the better.
However, even when it is in place individuals will still need to be alert, as it’s not going to stop all fraudsters. People approaching retirement remain an attractive target as they have access to potentially large amounts of money, so it is important that people are still very wary.
To help with this, we have shared our top tips on how individuals can avoid losing their pension to scams and fraudsters:
1. Scams don't look like scams – Scams look and sound legitimate, which is why people are hoodwinked. They often have very professional-looking websites and literature. Whatever you are planning to do with your pension money, check before you do anything that the company is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
2. Too good to be true could be too bad for you – If an investment offers the opportunity of a lifetime, run away as fast as you can. It’s likely to be a scam and it’ll be too bad for you if you fall for it.
3. You’ve been googled – Legitimate investment companies are very unlikely to cold call. The people that run pension scams are clever and may have been able to get hold of some of your personal details, not just about you, but your local area and interests. Don’t let their knowledge and friendliness take you off guard and allow them to con you.
4. Don’t rush to be ripped off – Genuine advisers will never rush you to make a decision. Anything that talks about limited time offers is likely to be too good to be true. Always check with the FCA.
5. Facts not fraud – Pensions can normally only be accessed after you reach 55, unless you are in seriously ill health. In normal circumstances, if someone promises to release your pension early, they are lying and it is a scam. Make sure you know the facts to avoid the fraudsters.
6. Check it out – If you are unsure, always contact your employer if it relates to your pension at work, or The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) or Pension Wise for any other kind of pension.
7. Protect your privacy – Scammers will use technology and try to contact individuals through various means such as social media, texts, telephone calls and emails. If you are in doubt, ignore it and hang up the phone or delete the message. Your phone company should be able to help by blocking any offending numbers and email providers can help you to block emails from specific senders. Beware of what you share through social media and check your privacy settings are as secure as possible.
8. Help stop the scams – If you think you are being scammed contact TPAS immediately. Not only may they be able to help you, but they will be able to help others from falling for the same scam.
The crucial thing to remember is that scams don’t look like scams. In our financial education seminars we show adverts from organisations that are ‘too good to be true’ to prove how hard they can be to spot. The rule is, whatever investment you are planning to make, check out the company with the FCA first. If the regulator hasn’t heard of it, you will have no place to go if it turns out to be fraudulent.
Visit the FCA’s ScamSmart website to find out more http://scamsmart.fca.org.uk/
Jonathan Watts-Lay is director, WEALTH at work, a specialist provider of financial education and guidance in the workplace supported by regulated advice for individuals