Older people are getting bombarded with calls, texts and mail from heartless fraudsters trying to steal their savings. Pensions Minister Ros Altmann urges savers to remain vigilant.
FRAUDSTERS are embracing pension freedom. After being offered a free pension review in a cold call, one potential victim was visited at work by a bogus independent financial adviser who offered the chance of investing in overseas property.
"He was armed with a glossy, legitimate-looking brochure, and said my money would be invested in a fund registered offshore," the potential victim said. Paperwork was then couriered to him asking him to sign an agreement to transfer his savings.
"I felt uncomfortable and decided it was too much of a risk," he said. "I feel lucky, though – on another day I could have easily signed those forms."
He was indeed lucky. He nearly lost his entire £90,000 pension pot to the scheme.
Others have been less fortunate. Losses from pension liberation fraud climbed to £4.7m, according to Action Fraud, up from £1.5m in April.
Ros Altmann, the minister for pensions, said: “Criminals often lay a sophisticated trap with glossy brochures and professional websites to make them look credible. Don't fall for it. I always get angry and upset whenever I hear how innocent people lose their pension to crooks as part of some elaborate scam.
“Often victims have spent years diligently saving so that they can enjoy their retirement, only to then be conned out of their cash by a smooth talking confidence trickster.
“Scammers have so many ways of tempting you to part with your money, from investing in non-existent overseas property to promises of fantastic returns from fine wines. I’ve even heard reports of shady operations peddling car parking spaces in Dubai.
“My message to people is simple: pensions are precious so don’t fall for conmen who want to snatch your money. By the time you realise you’ve been sold a tissue of lies it’s too late. The scammer has disappeared without a trace, and your money can go with them.
“To add insult to injury, you could then sometimes face a penalty charge for accessing your pension too early (you shouldn’t touch it before age 55), plus a hefty tax bill.
“Often these scam salespeople will call out of the blue offering a “free pension review”. No reputable organisation would ever do such a thing; the chances are they are simply laying the ground work to steal your money. If anyone cold calls you about your pension. Just hang up the phone!
“And if you receive texts or emails about your pension from a person or firm you don’t know, with promises of get-rich-quick schemes or investing your pensions, just delete them. If you get junk mail through the post throw it straight in the bin.
“If anyone you don't know offers to trace lost pensions or get you a statement please don't listen to them because it’s bound to be a scam.
“In fact, tracing past pensions or getting state pension statements are services we offer for free. Just go to GOV.UK, which is a trusted source and this should be your first port of call.We have also set up services that you can contact if you’re not sure what to do.”
For free and independent guidance about pensions you can talk to The Pensions Advisory Service on 0300 1231047 or, if you are over 50 and want to understand what your options are, call Pension Wise on 0300 3301001. Don’t give your money to fly-by-night firms before checking them out.
Both organisations offer free and impartial guidance and can help you to reach decisions in a safe and trusted way.
And if you think you’ve been targeted by scammers, report it right away to Action Fraud on 0300 1232040.