Victims of pensions scams could lose 22 years’ worth of savings within 24 hours, according to new analysis by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and The Pensions Regulator (TPR).
These startling figures come as the FCA and TPR re-launch ScamSmart; a campaign supported by the AIA which aims to encourage people to protect a lifetime of savings.
The campaign reveals that it could take 22 years for a saver to build a pension pot of £82,000 – the average amount victims lost to scams in 2018. But despite this, many savers could be at risk of falling for scammers tactics within 24 hours. New research reveals that almost 1 in 4 people (24%) surveyed, admitted to taking 24 hours or less to decide on a pension offer.
Worryingly, overconfidence could also lead to savers missing the signs of a scam. Despite nearly two thirds (63%) saying they are confident to make a decision about their pension, the same proportion (63%) would trust someone offering pensions advice out of the blue – one of the main warning signs of a scam.
Further still, the more highly educated the person, the more likely they are to fall for a pension scam. Those with a university degree are 40% more likely to accept a free pension review from a company they’ve not dealt with before, and 21% more likely to take up the offer of early access to their pension pot. Both common scam tactics.
Pension fraud can be devastating. Victims can be left facing retirement with limited income, and little or no opportunity to build their years of savings back up. As a result, the regulators are warning savers to get to know the warning signs of a scam, be ScamSmart and always check who they are dealing with before making a decision on their pensions.
Mark Steward, Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight, FCA, said: “We know many people have big plans for their retirement, whether it’s seeing new places, learning new skills or helping their families out financially. Pension scammers destroy those dreams, often forever. So be ScamSmart. Reject unsolicited approaches offering ‘help’ with your pension and get advice from an FCA authorised firm before making big changes to your pension fund. Make sure your lifetime savings stay yours.”
Rachel Rutherford, AIA Director of Policy & Public Affairs, added: “It is essential to be vigilant and spot the signs of a pension scam early. Fraud can be difficult to spot and scammers employ clever techniques, such as seeking to establish ‘social similarity’ by faking empathy and a friendly rapport with their victims in order to build trust, so you lower your guard.
“Pension scams can happen to anyone, so AIA would advise you to be ScamSmart. Always check who you are dealing with and allow yourself time to make decisions about your pension. Remember legitimate businesses will not pressurise you and rush you into a quick decision.”
The regulators recommend four simple steps to protect yourself from pension scams:
- Reject unexpected pension offers whether made online, on social media or over the phone
- Check who you’re dealing with before changing your pension arrangements – check the FCA Register or call the FCA helpline on 0800 111 6768 to see if the firm you are dealing with is authorised by the FCA
- Don’t be rushed or pressured into making any decision about your pension
- Consider getting impartial information and advice The Pensions Advisory Service provides free independent and impartial information and guidance. If people aged 50 or over require free independent advice, they can contact the government-backed Pension Wise service. To book a free appointment, visit www.pensionwise.gov.uk/en.