Pension scams: how to stay safe

Pensions scams can devastate your retirement plans – and there are more fraudsters out there than ever before. Here's how to spot a scam and protect your pension savings.

A pension scam victim typically loses a staggering £91,000, according to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

While pension freedoms have been a revelation in terms of how we manage our finances in retirement. Sadly, they've also triggered a boom in pension fraudsters.

So it's vital you learn to spot the telltale signs that you're communicating with a conman before your retirement savings pot is wiped out

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1. Hang up on cold callers

Many pension scams start with an out-of-the-blue phone call, email or text often offering you a free pension review. Do not respond to these approaches. Hang up on cold callers (it's illegal anyway).

If you want advice about your pension or a review contact Pension Wise, Citizen’s Advice, or make an appointment with an Independent Financial Advisor – you can find one at

2. Check everything

A lot of people have fallen victim to a scam because it was ‘recommended by a friend’.

Don’t rely on a friend’s tips do your own homework to make sure it is above board.

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3. Check up on your financial adviser

Criminals will pose as financial advisers in order to part you from your savings.

Before you discuss your finances with an adviser make sure they are registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

4. Keep an eye out for scam buzzwords

Scammers tend to use a number of known 'red light' words.

Be wary of anyone who talks of "time-limited offers", "one-off investments", "cashback", "pension liberation" or "loopholes".

Pension scams: how to stay safe (image: Shutterstock)

5. Check if it’s a known scam

Visit the FCA’s Scamsmart website to check if the deal you are being offered is on its list of known scams.

The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) also has an online pension scam guidance tool that can help you work out whether an investment is legitimate.  

6. Be wary of overseas investment deals

A well-known scam is to convince you to move your pension into an unregulated overseas investment such as a hotel, vineyard or overseas building project.

This puts all your money in one place and therefore most at risk. Never agree to invest your money overseas in unregulated projects.

7. Don’t fall for ‘guaranteed’ returns or fancy websites

There is no such thing as a guaranteed return when it comes to investments.

Don’t assume something is credible just because it looks flashy with impressive brochures or websites – these days anyone can pull together a smart website or paperwork.

Make sure you question everything – no matter how credible it may seem.

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8. Don’t be rushed

Scammers will try to pressure you into making a mistake by telling you the offer is time-limited or by sending a courier to your door to wait while you sign documents.

Don’t be pressured, take your time to check everything even if it means you have to turn down the deal.

Pension scams: how to stay safe (image: Shutterstock)

9. Talk to Pension Wise

If you are over 50 and have a defined contribution pension you can talk to the government’s Pension Wise scheme for advice on your retirement options.

10. Call The Pensions Advisory Service

You can call the Pensions Advisory Service for help with your retirement savings. The number is 0300 123 1047.

11. Report potential scams

If you think you may have been the victim of a scam, or have been contacted by scammers, report it to your pension provider and the police via Action Fraud.

Contact your pension provider immediately as they may be able to stop a transfer if it hasn’t taken place yet.

You can call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

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More pension articles on loveMONEY:

Work out how much money you need to retire

Pension freedoms: all you need to know

How safe are company pension schemes?



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