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Pension trustees should remain vigilant and warn savers about the heightened risk of scams in times of uncertainty, the Pensions Regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Money and Pensions Service have said as they fear squeezed household finances and misleading reports about the ‘collapse’ of pension funds could leave savers vulnerable.
The three bodies, which are members of the multi-agency taskforce Pension Scams Action Group, are concerned that fears over the economy, including recent extreme movements in gilt yields, could lead people to believe there is a risk to their retirement pots and make rushed decisions about their finances.
The three organisations said they have not seen evidence of an increase in pension scams to date but want to act now because of high inflation and interest rate rises. They are calling on trustees to look out for scams and suspicious transfer requests, following best practice in protecting savers from scams. This should include warning them of the heightened risk of pension and investment scams in times of uncertainty and providing some of the common signs of a scam, they said.
Nicola Parish, TPR’s executive director of frontline regulation, said: “Pension schemes are not at risk of collapse. It’s vital that savers who have seen recent headlines over the economy don’t panic and rush a decision over their retirement savings.”
Scammers exploit uncertainty, she noted, with savers worried about their finances potentially more vulnerable to fraudsters’ tactics.
“Scammers may pose as people or organisations savers trust. They may contact savers out of the blue to make promises that appear too good to be true – because they are,” she said, urging people to avoid hasty decisions and contact MoneyHelper before taking any action, as well as consulting the FCA’s ScamSmart website.
Savers should also be on guard against recovery room scams or secondary scamming, where fraudsters approach people who have already been scammed and offer to help them get their money back in return for a fee, she added.
New pensions minister Laura Trott said: “We’re committed to arming savers with the tools they need to spot duplicitous fraudsters, who can be articulate, appear financially knowledgeable, and offer time-limited deals – all designed to convince people to hand over their hard-earned pension savings.”
She said that as scammers’ techniques evolve, so must the defences: “We continue to work closely with partners across industry, regulators and law enforcement to send scammers packing. Savers can also get on the front foot themselves – knowing the common signs of a pension scam is a great way to start.”
The three bodies said common signs of a pension scam include: