People with a degree more likely to fall for pension scams

Pardon the Interruption

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The Pensions Regulator and the Financial Conduct Authority are driving home the message that people should reject unexpected pension offers, as surveys show that higher education does not protect against sophisticated scams either.

The opposite is true according to the regulators - the more highly educated the person, the more likely they are to fall for a pension scam. 

People with a university degree are 40% more likely to accept a free pension review from a company they have not dealt with before, and 21% more likely to take up the offer of early access to their pension pot. Unexpected pension offers are indicators of a pension scam.

The regulators say it takes just 24 hours to potentially lose a pension pot built up over 22 years - which is how long it can take to save the average scam amount of £82,000.

When asked, most people (63%) say they are confident to make a decision about their pension - yet the same proportion would trust someone offering pensions advice out of the blue, according to TPR and the FCA. 

A psychologist, Honey Langcaster-James, said: “Scammers employ clever techniques, such as seeking to establish ‘social similarity’ by faking empathy and a friendly rapport with their victims. They can win your trust in a short space of time and by engaging with them you leave yourself vulnerable to losing a lot of money very quickly. People need to know how to spot the signs of a scam so they don’t fall for psychological tricks.” 

Nicola Parish, executive director of frontline regulation at TPR, said scammers steal savings using professional-looking websites, ‘expert’ advice and an easy manner, making it tough to spot the fraud. 

"But once you sign on the dotted line, often there’s no second chance," said Parish.

Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, advised to reject unsolicited approaches offering ‘help’ with your pension and get advice from an FCA-authorised firm before making big changes to your pension fund, adding: "Make sure your lifetime savings stay yours.”

The two regulators have been running a ScamSmart campaign since July this year, including TV, radio, online videos, banner ads and paid search.

Earlier this year, a ban on pension cold calling came into force in the UK but scammers can't be fined for contacting people from outside the UK. 

The regulators have been working together with government departments, agencies, regulators, law enforcement bodies and representatives of the pensions industry to tackle pension scams since 2012 under Project Bloom.