According to new research from Action Fraud, more than £30 million has been lost by savers since 2017 to pension fraud.
Those most likely to fall victim to fraudsters are men in their 50s, who in many cases have been contacted by unauthorised “advisers” touting unrealistic investments. This age group tend to have larger pension pots, but Action Fraud said that fraudsters target all age groups.
Similar data from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) shows that fraudsters have targeted pension pots of varying size, with reported losses usually ranging from £1,000 to £500,000, but in some cases exceeding losses of £1 million.
Due to the scale of the money lost by pension holders, the UK’s financial regulators are warning savers to take extra care when making key financial decisions and seek authorised advice from a qualified Independent Financial Adviser.
Regulators say that many people have used lockdown as a time to reflect on and review their finances, as they hope to find better returns. This has left many more people vulnerable to scammers who play on a wide range of fears.
Many scams start with an unsolicited call, text, social media approach or email that offers a free or no-obligation pension review or suggests a way to make attractive returns on pension savings. Extra pressure is put on potential victims who are told the offer is time-limited.
In many cases, once a person is contacted, they will be manipulated to either transfer funds into a high-risk scheme that is completely inappropriate for their retirement savings or the money will simply be stolen.
Mark Steward, Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight at the FCA, said: “During these uncertain times, it is more important than ever to defend your lifetime savings from scammers. Fraudsters will seek out every opportunity to exploit innocent people, no matter how much or how little you have saved.
“You can check the status of a firm before changing your pension by visiting the FCA register, and get advice from an FCA authorised firm before making any changes to your pension.”
Last year the Government introduced a new ban on unsolicited calls and communications offering pension “deals”. Firms that disregard this ban could face a fine of up to £500,000.