Be aware and know the warning signs
With many people having pension pots worth tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds, it’s no surprise that these are a target for scammers.
Two of the most common pension scams to be aware of are schemes offering early pension release and free pension reviews. Generally, you can only take money from your pension once you reach age 55. So any scheme offering to help you access your money before this is likely to be a scam. And most companies offering free pension reviews are trying to get you to transfer your pension money either into high-risk investments or a scheme that doesn’t actually exist.
Be wary too of other investment schemes and products promising great returns, or those which use high-pressure sales tactics to rush you into ‘time-limited’ offers. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
If you’re in doubt about a company’s legitimacy, check with the UK’s financial regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) at https://www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart
Stay alert with cold calls, emails, social media and search engine results
Cold calls have been illegal since 2019. So if you get anyone calling you out of the blue about your pension or other savings and investments, it’s likely to be a scam.
Many scams involve ‘phishing’ emails that lure you into opening them and clicking on the links they contain. Once clicked, the links can allow malware to infect your devices and steal your personal information. That’s why it’s good practice to never click on links in emails. Instead, type in the address yourself. And always install the latest updates for your devices, applications and internet security software.
Other scams target people via social media or search engine results, with messages that appear to come from a genuine financial organisation. Be particularly wary of ‘get-rich-quick’ advertisements - often with enticing images of luxury lifestyles.
Report any scams or suspicions of scams
If you’ve fallen victim to a scam or have suspicions that you’ve been targeted, contact your provider straight away. They may be able to stop it. You should also report any scams to Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime. They’ll pass any reports onto the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau for investigation.
You can also report any suspicious emails to the National Cyber Security Centre – email@example.com. And the FCA has both a phone helpline and an online form where you can report pension and investment scams.
Remember that any information you give these organisations could help prevent others from experiencing the same scam.
Spread the word
If you have other financial products or accounts, contact your providers and ask if they can protect your accounts. For example, a password or warning marker that means you’ll be contacted if anyone tries to access your accounts or change any details.
You can also contact CIFAS, a fraud-prevention organisation. Taking out its protective registration flags your personal details to its National Fraud Database. Companies signed up to the database will know you’re at risk and take extra steps to help protect you.
Check for security breaches
If a scammer has, or you suspect they have, stolen your personal details such as a password, follow the National Cyber Security Centre’s guidance. And if you think any of your devices have been targeted by a virus, run an anti-virus scan to remove any threats.
Get emotional support
If you’re the victim of a scam, you may be left feeling anxious, fearful or guilty, and you may not want to talk about it with family or friends. Mind and Victim Support offer confidential helplines where you can speak to someone confidentially about what you’re going through.
Scams are extremely common and can be very traumatic, so be sure to use all the support available.
How a financial adviser can help
Getting professional financial advice can provide an additional layer of insurance. Financial adviser firms, like abrdn Financial Planning, which are approved and regulated by the FCA have robust controls in place to make sure clients aren’t at risk from scams or fraud. Additionally, if you use an FCA-regulated adviser, you’ll be covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme in case anything does go wrong.
If you already have an abrdn financial planner, get in touch with them if you have any concerns about scams or fraud – they’ll be happy to help. Or find out more about how our financial planning services could help you. There is a cost for professional advice, but it will be specific to you and tailored to your individual needs.
The information in this article should not be regarded as financial advice. Information is based on our understanding in March 2023.