Action Fraud is warning savers to remain vigilant and protect their pensions, as figures from the national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime reveal £1.8m has already been lost to pension fraud this year
There has been an increase in reporting so far this year, with 107 reports of pension fraud received in the first three months of 2021. This is an increase of almost 45% when compared to the same period in 2020.
Action Fraud has launched a national awareness campaign to remind the public about the importance of doing research before making changes to pension arrangements.
Pauline Smith, head of Action Fraud, said: ‘Criminals are malicious and unapologetic when it comes to committing pension fraud. They are motivated by their own financial gain and lack any kind of empathy for their victims, who can often lose their whole life savings to these scams.
‘We know pension fraud can have a devastating impact, both financially and emotionally, but any one of us can fall victim to a fraud and it’s nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about. It’s incredibly important that instances of pension fraud, and attempted scams, are reported to Action Fraud. Every report helps police get that bit closer to the people committing these awful crimes. Reporting to Action Fraud also allows our specialist victim-support advocates to provide people with important protection advice and signpost them to local support services.’
Pension scams often include free pension reviews, ‘too good to be true’ investment opportunities, or offers to help release money from your pension even for under 55s, which is not allowed under the pension freedom rules.
The true scale of pension fraud is likely to be much higher than what is being reported, Action Fraud warned. There has been an increase in reporting so far this year, with 107 reports of pension fraud received in the first three months of 2021. This is an increase of almost 45 per cent when compared to the same period in 2020.
Nicola Parish, The Pensions Regulator’s executive director of frontline regulation, said: ‘Being ScamSmart and learning the signs of a scam can help prevent savers becoming a victim in the first place. Before making decisions about their pension savers should visit the Pensions Advisory Service website for impartial guidance or get financial advice from a FCA-authorised financial adviser.
‘Savers should be able to be confident their pensions are secure. We want the pensions industry to help build that confidence by signing up our Pledge to Combat Pension Scams. By making the pledge, industry can show its intent to protect savers.’
Mark Steward, director of enforcement and market oversight at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), said: ‘Scammers target people from all walks of life. It doesn’t matter the size of your pension pot, scammers destroy retirement dreams so it’s vital that consumers know how to protect themselves from scammers.
‘Unexpected and unsolicited offers, free pension reviews, promises of high returns which sound too good to be true and pressure to make a decision quickly are all warning signs of scam. Use the tools on our ScamSmart website to protect yourself and your retirement.’
How to protect yourself from pension scams
Reject unexpected pension opportunities, such as free pension reviews or investment opportunities involving your pension, whether made via email, social media, text, or over the phone.
Research who you’re dealing with before changing your pension arrangements – check the FCA Register, or call the FCA on 0800 111 6768 to see if the firm is authorised by the FCA.
Don’t be rushed or pressured into making any decision about your pension – consider getting impartial information and advice from a financial adviser authorised by the FCA to help you make the best decision for your own personal circumstances.
Be suspicious if you are contacted out of the blue about an investment opportunity - seek advice from trusted friends, family members or an independent professional advice service before making a significant financial decision, especially when it involves your pension pot. Even genuine investment schemes can be high risk.
Be ScamSmart and visit the ScamSmart website to learn how to protect yourself from pensions scams.
If you think you’ve been a victim of pension fraud, contact your pension provider immediately and report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.
You can also report an unauthorised firm or a scam to the FCA by using their reporting form or by calling 0800 111 6768.