Pension fraudsters contact one in seven over-55s
Research from Portus Consulting found that 14 per cent of working people over-55 believe they have been targeted by pension scheme scammers since April.
About a quarter of the alleged scams involved offering alternative investment products without fully explaining what they were, while 69 per cent said the suspected fraudsters offered a 'free' pensions review in an attempt to access their funds. Many times the would-be scammers offered exotic investment schemes promising high returns.
Earlier this month the Treasury Select Committee said more information was needed from the government to prove there hasn't been a fraudster feeding frenzy since the freedoms came into effect.
EDUCATION IS NEEDED
According to separate research by Phoenix Group - a consolidator of closed life assurance funds - there are more than 1,600 dodgy companies or schemes operating in the UK which it believes are involved with scams.
The City of London Police reports that fraudsters stole more than £9 million from savers between April and August this year - twice the amount lost in the same period last year.
But the actual figure could be significantly higher for several reasons - first, it can take years for victims to realise they've fallen for investment fraud schemes, and only 12 per cent of people who believe they've been targeted by criminals report it to the authorities.
'The pension freedoms are to be welcomed because they give people greater control over how they use their own money,' says Portus commercial director Steve Watson. 'However, more needs to be done to educate people about pension scammers and also capture and deter these criminals.'
Parminder Dhothar, intelligence and investigations manager for Phoenix Group, adds: 'Consumers need greater education on the risks of fraud - especially those taking cash and reinvesting the funds, as it is more difficult for providers to prevent them from being victims.'
Results of separate research earlier this year found that one in five over-50s may have been targeted by fraudsters.
Portus and Phoenix share their tips for avoiding scams:
- Be wary of people calling about tax loopholes to unlock your pension before age 55;
- Likewise be on guard with anyone offering unusual investment schemes and implying high returns;
- Don't let yourself be pressured into sending documents or transferring funds quickly - for example don't listen to salespeople with limited time offers;
- Anyone who approaches you first, without you going looking for them, should be treated with suspicion - be it over the phone, text, email or door-to-door. If this investment is really so appealing, why are they resorting to this kind of sales tactic?
- Check that a company is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority before dealing with you - the regulator also has a list of known scams. Be careful though, scammers sometimes work with regulated partners to gain an air of legitimacy;
- You should never have to pay up front fees to access funds due to you;
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is; and finally
- If unsure, call the Consumer Direct helpline on 0845 404 0506 or visit consumerdirect.gov.uk. To report suspected fraud call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or visit actionfraud.police.uk.
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