The number of people seeking information about pension scams has soared since the launch of the first joint campaign by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and The Pensions Regulator (TPR) this summer.
In the 55 days before the launch around 31,000 people visited the ScamSmart website at an average of 562 per day. In the 55 days after the launch this rose five-fold (462%) to more than 173,000 people - an average of 3,145 per day and the equivalent of one every 27 seconds. Additionally, over 370 pensions holders were warned about an unauthorised firm after using the Warning List, an online tool that helps consumers check a list of firms operating without authorisation.
The two regulators are urging all pension holders to be on their guard against pension scams as new research suggests that half (52%) of 45-65 year olds with a pension do not think they are likely be targeted by a pension scam. The most common reasons given were that they are too savvy to be scammed (21%) or that they didn’t have enough money saved in their pension (18%).
Victims of pension scams last year lost an average of £91,000 each to fraudsters. They reported receiving cold-calls, offers of free pension reviews and promises that they would get high rates of return - all of which are key warning signs of scams.
Research from the FCA estimates over 10 million UK adults received an unsolicited pension offer in just one year. The Treasury has laid regulations that will ban pension cold calling early in 2019.
The FCA and TPR are urging the public to be ScamSmart with their pension and always check who they’re dealing with. The regulators recommend four simple steps to protect yourself from pension scams:
- Reject unexpected pension offers whether made online, on social media or over the phone.
- Check who you’re dealing with before changing your pension arrangements - check the FCA Register or call the FCA contact centre on 0800 111 6768 to see if the firm you are dealing with is authorised by the FCA.
- Don’t be rushed or pressured into making any decision about your pension.
- Consider getting impartial information and advice.
If you think you’ve been a victim of a pension scam, report it. Visit fca.org.uk/scamsmart to find out more.
Mark Steward, the FCA’s Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight, said:
“Our research shows that many pension holders believe they are too savvy to be scammed. But pension scams are often very sophisticated and difficult to spot. Scammers will target people from all walks of life and with any size pension.”
“The best way to protect yourself is to always check the FCA Register to make sure that anyone offering you pension advice or any other financial service is authorised by the FCA.””
Nicola Parish, TPR’s Executive Director of Frontline Regulation, said:
“The dramatic increase in the number of people visiting ScamSmart for information is very encouraging but this is not the end of the campaign.
“Every pension holder is a potential scam victim so it’s vital that we continue spreading the word about scammers and how they operate to prevent more people handing over their funds to criminals.”
Guy Opperman, Minister for Pensions and Financial Inclusion, said:
“Pension scams are devastating for people and can rob them of the retirement they planned. Raising awareness of how these heartless criminals operate is key to tackling fraud, and the response to this campaign is encouraging.
“I would urge savers to always exercise caution and seek independent guidance or advice before making important financial decisions - free, impartial guidance is available from Pension Wise or The Pensions Advisory Service.”
The FCA and TPR are part of Project Bloom, a multi-agency taskforce which is working to combat pension scams. The taskforce includes the Department for Work and Pensions, HM Treasury, the Serious Fraud Office, City of London Police, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, The Pensions Advisory Service and the National Crime Agency.
- Research completed by GfK using Computer Assisted Web Interviewing from 3 August to 23 September 2018, amongst 45-65 year olds with a current or frozen pension.
- We estimated that around 10.4m UK adults received an unsolicited pension offer - FCA Financial Lives Survey 2017.
- ScamSmart website visits 173,533 during campaign period vs 30,890 period before campaign launch.
- If people aged 50 or over do require free independent advice they can contact the government-backed Pension Wise service to book a free appointment.
- On 1 April 2013, the FCA became responsible for the conduct supervision of all regulated financial firms and the prudential supervision of those not supervised by the Prudential Regulation Authority.