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Pension scams

Keeping your pension savings safe

Scammers are known to target pension savers, encouraging them to release some or all of the money they’ve saved for retirement.

This money is invested in unusual or high-risk investments, or simply stolen. It can result in the total loss of a person’s lifetime savings, and can be difficult to retrieve.

How to spot a scam

Scammers use increasingly sophisticated methods to attract pension savers, and often sound very credible. They may have professional websites, endorsements and members of staff, but there are certain signs you can look out for:

Couple walking

Contact out of the blue.
If you’re contacted out of the blue about a pension opportunity, it’s likely to be high risk or a scam.

Access to your pension before 55.
An offer to release funds before you reach 55 is highly likely to be a scam.

‘Too good to be true’ promises.
If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Free pension reviews.

Pressure to act quickly.
Scammers may try to pressure you with ‘time-limited offers’ or even send a courier to your door to wait while you sign documents.

Higher returns.
Guarantees they can get you better returns on your pension savings.

Unusual investments which tend to be unregulated and high risk, and may be difficult to sell if you need access to your money.

Complicated structures where it isn’t clear where your money will end up.

Arrangements where there are several parties involved (some of which may be based overseas) all taking a fee, which means the total amount deducted from your pension is significant.

Long-term pension investments which mean it could be several years before you realise something is wrong.

Remote access.
Scammers may pretend to help you and ask you to download software or an app so they can access your device. This could enable them to access your bank account or make payments using your card.

Do you suspect you have been approached by a scammer?

You can report them to:

-          the Financial Conduct Authority (0800 111 6768 or fca.org.uk)

-          Action Fraud (0300 123 2040 or www.actionfraud.police.uk)

If you are worried about the authenticity of a pension transfer that’s already taking place, you should contact your pension provider immediately and contact The Money and Pensions Service (moneyandpensionsservice.org.uk)

Make sure to...

  • Reject unexpected offers+-

    If you’re contacted out of the blue about a pension opportunity, there’s a very high chance it’s high risk or a scam.

    If you get a cold call about your pension, the safest thing to do is to hang up - it’s illegal to make these calls and you should report them to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on 0303 123 1113. 

    If you get unsolicited offers via email or text, you should simply ignore them.

    Be wary if you’re contacted about any other financial product or opportunity and they mention using your pension.

    Be wary of offers of free pension reviews. Professional advice on pensions is not free. A free offer out of the blue (from a company you have not dealt with before) is probably a scam.
  • Take your time+-

    It can be tempting to rush into a deal or arrangement that promises high or guaranteed returns, but it’s really important to carry out thorough checks before you commit to anything.
  • Check the Financial Services Register+-

    The FCA’s ScamSmart recommends checking that anyone offering you advice or another financial service is FCA-authorised. If you use an unauthorised firm and something goes wrong, you won’t be covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service or the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
  • Use the warning list+-

    If you’re approached out of the blue about your pension, you can search for the firm on the FCA’s warning list – but remember that firms frequently change their names or may not yet have been reported to the FCA.
  • Look out for ‘clone firms’+-

    Some scammers will pretend they’re from an FCA-authorised firm, when in fact they’ve set up a ‘clone firm’. You can double check that they are who they say they are by contacting them using the details provided on the Financial Services Register, rather than those they give you. Remember that any adviser or third-party contact they refer you to may also be part of the scam.

Impartial information and advice

Any decision concerning your pension should be properly considered. It’s really important to check everything yourself and to make use of the free and paid-for advice that’s on hand to help you make the right decision for you. Remember that friends or family members who recommend pension deals may themselves be a victim of a scam. 

You should consider speaking to The ​Money and Pensions Service (moneyandpensionsservice.org.uk) and, if you’re over 50 and have a defined contribution (DC) pension, booking an appointment to talk through your retirement options with Pension Wise (www.pensionwise.gov.uk).

You can also use a financial adviser to help you make the best decision for your own personal circumstances. If you do opt for an adviser, make sure they are regulated by the FCA.

If you’re planning to take or transfer your DC pension savings, you must now book or officially opt-out of a Pension Wise appointment before doing so. We are also required by law to carry out certain checks before we can transfer your benefits to another scheme. These restrictions have been put in place to protect you from potential scams and, in certain circumstances, we may delay or not permit a transfer payment.

You can find out more about how to identify and avoid scams at: