You can beat the scammers by knowing the words and phrases they typically use.
Scammers who call you unsolicited on your home phone can sound incredibly persuasive but there are certain buzzwords and phrases they use which can help you spot them.
A pensions campaign group has identified the key terms scammers used to tempt victims into parting with their pension cash.
ACA Pension Life represents members of 13 dodgy “pension liberation” schemes which have seen pension savers collectively lose more than £2bn.
The group has seen an increasing number of people fall victim to pension scams since the new pension freedom rules were introduced last April.
Here are the phrases which should ring alarm bells.
Three pension scammer phrases to listen out for
ACA Pension Life highlighted three phrases that are among the most common and most effective ways used by fraudsters to entice people into handing over their life savings.
Legal loophole: If anyone tells you there is a ‘legal loophole’ that allows you to access part or all of your pension before the age of 55, and that there will be no tax to pay, they’re lying.
Sophisticated investor: playing to people’s vanity, scammers spin the ‘sophisticated investor’ line to persuade people they should be investing their pension in assets which are ‘not traditionally available’. Don’t fall for it.
Free: if you’re told you can transfer your pension free of charge, make sure you find out exactly what the long-term charges entail. The chances are it won’t really be ‘free’.
And there’s more…
“Pension liberation” is a term often used by scammers to convince people they can access the funds within a pension before the age of 55. However, these firms generally fail to mention a massive tax charge levied by HMRC or their own fees, which together can leave a saver with a “liberated” pension virtually nothing.
Other terms used to describe pension liberation include “pension loan”, “pension reciprocation plans” and “cashing in your pension”.
A common tactic used by pension scammers is to contact savers out of the blue and offer a “free pension review” or “pension health check”. Once they have ‘reviewed’ your pension, the scammers will tell you there are better returns to be earned on your money elsewhere. Typically these are in “one-off investment opportunities”.
Be wary of any company that tries to rush you, either by describing an offer as “time limited” or by sending documents to your home by courier to encourage you to sign up.
Scammers don’t just target people with pension savings – anyone’s money will do. Investment scams can look and sound believable, with smooth-talking salespeople, slick websites and sophisticated brochures.
Investment scammers will often contact victims out of the blue and make repeated attempts to get them to part with their money. Tactics include saying a deal is “time limited” or offering a bonus or discount if you sign up straight away.
Some will say that they are only making the offer available to you, or even ask you to not tell anyone else about the opportunity.
Watch out for unusually high “guaranteed returns” or anything that sounds too good to be true. Scammers will also downplay the risks to your money, describing deals as “no risk” or using confusing legal jargon.
Property investment scams
Property investment scams have made a comeback over the past couple of years as property prices have increased.
Typically held in hotel conference rooms at weekends, property investment seminars typically promise you massive returns with very little outlay.
Buzzwords to watch out for include "financial freedom", "passive income", "armchair investing" and "below market value". Some talk about "no money down", "creative finance, “no mortgage needed” and using “other people’s money” or “OPM”.
Another term to look out for is “joint venture”, where you hand over your cash to a seasoned ‘expert’ who will do the legwork on a property deal – or more likely disappear. Ask yourself: if this person knows how to make a million, why do they need your money?
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