Pension savers claim over £30m ($39.4m) has been lost to scams over the past three years, according to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and The Pensions Regulator.
Pension pots of all sizes have been victims of scams, with reported losses ranging from under £1,000 to as much as £500,000. A total of £30,857,329 has been reportedly lost to pension scammers since 2017, according to complaints filed with Action Fraud.
However, the true number of scams is likely to be much higher as savers often miss signs of a scam and are unaware of how much is in their pots in the first place.
Scammers use tempting offers to persuade people to transfer their pension pot to them, often using ploys of “time-limited offers” or deadlines to pressure pensioners into handing over their money.
Cold calling relating to pensions has been banned since 2019, but criminals still use this method to scam people out of their cash.
Two thirds (65%) of pensioners said they would be confident in spotting a scam approach, but four in 10 (39%) would unknowingly put themselves at risk by engaging with a scam tactics such as being told it’s a time-limited offer or that there is a guaranteed high return on their savings, the FCA said.
Myron Jobson, personal finance campaigner, Interactive Investor, highlighted that the coronavirus pandemic “has created a perfect storm for crooks to shroud their nefarious schemes among the uptick in correspondence by legitimate organisations relating to coronavirus measures.”
In a separate survey of over 12,000 UK adults at different stages of their retirement journey by Interactive Investor, 13% of respondents admitted to having been scammed, rising to 18% in the 72-77 age category, and 20% of those aged over 77.
The average victim of pensions scamming is a man in his 50s, according to the FCA.
Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement and market oversight, FCA, said: “During these uncertain times, it is more important than ever to defend your lifetime savings from scammers.
“Fraudsters will seek out every opportunity to exploit innocent people, no matter how much or how little you have saved. You can check the status of a firm before changing your pension by visiting the FCA register, and get advice from an FCA authorised firm before making any changes to your pension.”
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Keir Ashman, pensions and investments specialist at flat-fee wealth manager Bancroft Wealth, said: “Never agree to transfer your pension without getting advice first. Not only could it turn out to be a scam, but even if it’s not, there may be other providers out there that can offer you far better rates.
“Many people are put off speaking to a financial adviser as they assume it will be extremely costly, but most advisers will offer a free, no-obligation initial meeting where they will explain if they can help you and how much they would charge.”