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How to avoid pensions scams

Spot the warning signs

What is a pension scam?

It’s a sad fact that pension scams are still common, and you need to be vigilant for them. Scammers try to persuade pension savers to transfer their entire pension savings, or to release funds, by making attractive sounding promises they have no intention of keeping. Often contact is out of the blue, promising to unlock pension benefits or unrealistic rates of return.

Why do pension scams happen?

Pension scams are on the rise. Your pension could be worth a lot of money – more than people usually have in cash savings.

Sadly, that means pensions are very appealing to scammers. They can go to great lengths to get their hands on your money.

Things to look out for

Scammers create very attractive offers to persuade you to transfer your pension savings to them. Remember if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Here are some warning signs to look out for:

  • contacting you out of the blue 
  • free pension reviews
  • offers of one-off investment opportunities with ‘guaranteed’ or higher returns
  • early access to your pension (an offer to release funds before 55 is highly likely to be a scam)
  • time-limited offers that need you to sign-up today
  • unusual investments which are likely to be high risk
  • complicated investment structures so it’s not clear where your money is

The risks

If you fall for a scam and transfer your pension to a bogus scheme not only could you lose all of your money, you could also be hit with a big tax bill as well. 

How to protect yourself from pension scams

Reject unexpected offers
  • if you are contacted out of the blue about a pension opportunity, chances are its high risk or a scam. If you get a cold call about your pension the safest thing to do is hang up
  • be wary of free pension reviews – professional advice on pensions is not free
  • beware of being talked into something by someone you know. They could be getting scammed too
Check who you are dealing with
  • check the FCA Register - make sure that anyone offering you advice or other financial services is FCA authorised
  • if the firm is on the Register, call the FCA consumer helpline on 0800 111 6768 to check the firm is permitted to give pension advice
  • check they are not a clone - a common scam is to pretend to be a genuine FCA authorised firm (called a ‘clone firm’). Always use the contact details on the Register, not the details the firm gives you
  • check the FCA ScamSmart website for an investment or pension opportunity you’ve been offered and avoid scams
Dont be rushed or pressured
  • take your time to make all the checks you need – even if this means turning down an ‘amazing deal’. Be wary of promised returns that sound too good to be true and don’t be rushed or pressured into making a decision 
Get impartial information or advice

You should seriously consider seeking financial guidance or advice before changing your pension arrangements:

  • consider using a financial advisor - it’s important you make the best decision for your own personal circumstances so you should seriously consider using the services of a qualified professional
  •  Pension Wise - if you’re over 50 and have a defined contribution pension, Pension Wise offers pre-booked appointments to talk through your retirement options
  • The Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) provide free independent and impartial information and guidance

If you are unsure and need some help, please give us a call on 0800 652 7000 (+44 1325 271 860 from abroad)

What to do if you suspect a scam

If you've agreed to transfer your pension or make an investment and now suspect a scam, call us straight away on 0800 652 7000 (+44 1325 271 860 from abroad).

Report to the FCA - you can report an unauthorised firm or scam to the FCA by contacting their Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768 or using their reporting form.

Report to Action Fraud - if you suspect a scam you should report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or at

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