Fraudsters are exploiting fears over the COVID-19 pandemic to target pension savers and investors. The Pensions Regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Money and Pensions Service have issued a joint statement urging people not to make rash pension decisions in the wake of the global pandemic, as criminals try to exploit public fears over the market turmoil to dupe victims out of their cash.
Persuading you to transfer your pension pot
Scammers will make false claims to gain your trust – for example, claiming they are authorised by the FCA or that they don’t have to be FCA-authorised because they aren’t providing the advice themselves, or claiming to be acting on behalf of the FCA or the government service Pension Wise.
Scammers also design attractive offers to persuade you to transfer your pension pot to them (or to release funds from it). It is then often invested in unusual and high-risk investments like overseas property, renewable energy bonds, forestry, storage units; or, invested in more conventional products but within an unnecessary complex structure which hides multiple fees and high charges, or stolen outright.
Fraudsters look to exploit people’s anxieties and fears
Attempts to scam personal data and monies are likely to increase during the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn as fraudsters look to exploit people’s anxieties and fears. You need to be aware of receiving emails, calls or texts from criminals impersonating investment companies, insurers, pension providers and other organisations to trick you into providing personal or financial information or money.
Cold calls about your pension – it is illegal for firms to contact you out of the blue about your pension, and you should hang up. The caller may offer to help you access your pension before age 55, or offer you a ‘free pensions’ review.
Phishing emails – these attempt to trick people into opening malicious attachments or reveal personal or financial information
Ghost brokers – fraudsters may attempt to use an insurer’s branding to promote and sell fake or invalid pension or investment products which may claim to offer COVID-19 protection.
What should I look out for?
- Be suspicious of offers that seem too good to be true
- Do not feel pressured or agree to offers or deals on insurance, pensions or investments
- Check the credentials of the person you are dealing with by getting a name and contact details. You can check the financial service register to make sure you are dealing with a regulated company. Hang up and call them back on details you can verify
- Never give your personal details out, such as an insurance or pensions policy number or other account details
- Always use contact details on your documents provided by your insurer or pension provider
- Don’t assume all online sites are genuine
Don’t let a scammer enjoy your retirement
If you’re contacted out of the blue about your pension, the chances are it’s high risk or a scam. Be wary of free pension review offers. A free offer out of the blue from a company you have not dealt with before is probably a scam. Should this happen to you, please contact one of our independent financial advisers here.