GUIDES

How do I look out for scams?

Josefine Jonsson
Pension Adviser

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IN THIS GUIDE:

  • They might try and cold call you
  • Too good to be true promises
  • Lying about being regulated
  • Types of pension scams
  • Early pension release scam
  • Pension review scams
  • High return exotic investment opportunities
  • ScamSmart initiative and FCA register
  • Why you can trust Profile Pensions

Since April 2015, the government’s pension reforms have given the over-55s (57 from 2028) the freedom to cash in their company and personal pensions. Thousands of people now have more freedom over what to do with their pension pot. With millions of pounds now accessible that previously weren’t, scammers will circle like vultures and try to take advantage.

But fear not, we are here to help you stay one step ahead of any potential scammer with a guide to the tell-tale signs of a pension scam and a list of pension frauds.


They might try and cold call you

Many of these companies operate by cold-calling – and, when challenged, will typically be unable to demonstrate that they have a previous relationship with you. That’s why the government has banned cold-calling, and made unsolicited texts and emails illegal.

If someone calls you, always ask to call them back. Reputable companies will always be happy to let you do this, whereas scammers tend to be more reluctant to give contact details.

Too good to be true promises

Many pension scammers will try to entice you with promises of low-risk investments that offer mouth-watering returns. Before they go any further, you should hang up.

Scammers may attempt to sell you a too-good-to-be-true, ‘one-off’ investment, usually via an unsolicited phone call, text message or email, or even in person after calling at your door.

Some scammers also advise you to ‘liberate’ your pension into one of these too-good-to-be-true schemes before you turn 55 (57 from 2028), which isn’t permitted under the new rules.

The Pensions Regulator has just launched a new online campaign on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, reminding people to keep their wits about them and offering advice on how to stay safe.

Lying about being regulated

Many pension scammers will claim to be FCA regulated when they’re not, it is therefore essential to go to the FCA’s website and check that the company is regulated, and that the adviser you’re speaking to is also regulated to give you pension advice. One important tip is to never use a link that a company sends to you in order to check if they’re regulated. It may take you to a fake website that’s not the FCA’s real one. Instead, research the company yourself, look it up on the FCA's register.

Types of pension scams

Staying savvy to pension scams is crucial, and there are various different types of fraud that criminals will try and fool you with. As experts in pension plan advice, we have had firsthand experience with the various types of pension fraud that you should be aware of. Here are some of the most common types of pension scams and how you can avoid them.

Early pension release scam

As the name suggests, early pension release scams happen when criminals try and convince you that you can release cash from your pension early. You should be wary of anyone who says they can help you to obtain money from your pension before the age of 55 (57 from 2028). This is one of the most common types of pension fraud and, unfortunately, one that a lot of individuals fall for. 

Some fraudsters may call this kind of scam a ‘pension loan’ or ‘pension liberation’. This is because they claim that you can borrow cash from your funds earlier than planned. There are only very specific circumstances where you will be able to access your pension before the age of 55, such as if you have a terminal illness. These pension scams can result in the loss of your savings, as well as facing a hefty tax bill and other charges. 

To avoid this kind of pension fraud, make sure you do your research before choosing an early pension release scheme. If a company that is authorised by the FCA recommends an early release scheme, be sure to find out all the options and risks before going ahead. Early release schemes can be against the law if they fail to inform you of the penalties and tax consequences involved.

Pension review scams

A pension review scam is a kind of pension fraud where you are offered a free review of your savings. This usually starts as an unexpected phone call, email, or text message, and a company offering this could claim to be FCA regulated even though it is not. You could also find that these scammers will claim they do not need to be regulated by the FCA because they aren’t the ones providing the advice. 

Many people fall for pension review scams because they sound fairly harmless and beneficial at first glance. They work by offering to review your current pension pot for free, then advising you to move your investment elsewhere or release funds early. Protect yourself by remaining vigilant against anyone offering a free pension review, and never provide any personal information or sign anything until speaking with a trusted financial advisor. 

High return exotic investment opportunities

These pension scams work by convincing you to transfer your pension into a high-risk scheme. The money is then used for unusual investments such as storage units, care homes, forestry, biofuels, and companies you might not be familiar with. Criminals will often tempt you with guaranteed returns in order to convince you to go ahead with this pension scam. Because these schemes use long-term investments, many people do not realise something is wrong until many years down the line.

With high return investment pension scams, they are sometimes genuine investments that are just very high risk and unlikely to actually pay off. In other cases, they are outright scams, and money is not being invested but stolen by scammers instead. Never trust uninitiated offers of a high return exotic investment opportunity, as real, trustworthy pension companies will not contact you via phone, email, or at your doorstep to offer you this. 

ScamSmart initiative and FCA register

The ScamSmart initiative was launched earlier this year by the Financial Conduct Authority, aiming to highlight pension fraud and protect people from falling victim to scams. With ScamSmart, you can check the FCA’s latest pension scam warnings, get impartial advice from professionals, and report a suspected pension scam. 

If you are ever considering making changes to your pension or a specific investment, particularly if you have been offered this by a third party, check the FCA register to ensure they are authorised. Only firms that are regulated and authorised by the FCA will appear on the register, and this means they operate in a way that fits with their official guidelines. 

Why you can trust Profile Pensions

Here at Profile Pensions, we are experts in helping individuals make the most out of their pension investments. Our aim is to help protect everyone from pension fraud and ensure your money is working as hard as you do. You can trust Profile Pensions because we are regulated by the FCA and FSFS protected. You can look us up on the FCA register to have complete peace of mind that Profile Pensions offers a trustworthy and legitimate service. Maybe you have received a letter from us and are looking for more information, or perhaps you came across us online and are interested to know a little more about what we do. Get in touch with our team of experts today. 

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