The Financial Conduct Authority has been pretty hot on the topic over the past year or so; providers are required to send an information sheet about pension scams with any transfer paperwork and you may have seen the FCA television ads. As a reminder, here are the classic signs of a pension scam:
Someone cold calls you. This should always ring alarm bells anyway as, since the introduction of GDPR, cold calls should now be a thing of the past.
They offer you “guaranteed higher returns”. Any independent financial adviser would never do this as, until they understand your objectives and attitude to risk (among many other factors), they won’t know which investment funds will be the most suitable for you.
They place a time limit on the offer. No UK pension provider has “limited offers”, their charges are what they are.
The investment they offer is unusual, for example Brazilian timber or overseas property. With very few exceptions, it’s highly unlikely that holding 100% of your pension fund in a single illiquid asset, such as property, is a good idea.
They offer to courier documents to you. There shouldn’t be any need for that level of urgency.
They tell you that you can release cash from your pension before you turn 55. Technically you can but you’ll end up paying at least 55% of it in tax. Something no adviser would recommend.
The FCA note one warning signal of scams as the offer of a “free pension review”. While this is often part of the deal that scammers offer, it is also something that the majority of authorised and regulated financial advisers do as well. Advisers who charge for an initial review are pretty few and far between. We don’t do it because we like to let our clients get to know us before we start charging and most of our peers are the same in this regard, it’s a bit of an industry tradition.
If you think you or someone you know has been approached by scammers, ask for their FCA number and company name. You can then look them up on the FCA register at www.register.fca.org.uk. If they’re not there it means that they’re not a regulated firm, are not authorised to provide financial advice and you should definitely not let them anywhere near your pension.
You can contact the FCA (https://www.fca.org.uk/contact) or The Pension Advisory Service (https://www.pensionsadvisoryservice.org.uk/contacting-us) if you’d like further guidance and we’re always happy to have a quick chat and offer you our opinion. Scammers ruin people’s lives and if we can stop even just one, we will.
Unfortunately, most of us now know of at least one person who has been the victim of what’s known as a pension scam. This is where people are enticed into transferring their pension fund to an unregulated company or investment opportunity and ultimately never see that money again.
It’s a story we’ve heard a number of times at Monument. Fortunately, there have been times in the past when one of us has been able to alert someone to what we think might be a scam and stop them from signing any paperwork in time but it’s still a big issue and suffice to say, we feel pretty strongly about it.