Pension scams are on the increase in the UK and if you are taken in by a scam you could lose all of any defined contribution pensions you have and it would be very hard to get it back. We explain what to watch out for.
Usually, a pension scam begins with an unexpected phone call, email or text from someone claiming to represent a financial services firm or Government body. The tactics used are increasingly sophisticated, but there are a few simple signs that can help you avoid being ripped off:
1. You are contacted out of the blue
If you receive unsolicited cold calls, texts and emails from an individual or firm about your pension they are unlikely to be legitimate. You should be suspicious of anyone who contacts you to discuss your pension planning and claims to work for a Government body, such as Pension Wise or The Money Advice Service.
You should only discuss any defined contribution pensions with a pension provider, a regulated financial adviser or a Government body, contacting them using the details on their website. For the latest guidance on pensions visit www.pensionwise.gov.uk or www.moneyadviceservice.co.uk.
2. You receive an offer that’s too good to be true
Schemes that offer exceptionally high rates of returns are usually very high-risk, and fully guaranteed returns are rare. Treat such offers with caution. You should be wary and suspicious about language such as ‘pension liberation’, ‘loophole’, ‘limited time offer’ or ‘one-off investment’ as this kind of language is rarely used by legitimate advisers. Such offers are unlikely to be genuine.
3. Access to your pension before you turn 55
Only in very specific circumstances will you be able to access any defined contribution pension before you reach the age of 55. Participating in a scheme that provides access to any defined contribution pension before then is likely to result in severe tax penalties and possibly losing your funds.
4. You are asked to invest in an unusual asset
These types of pensions are usually linked to funds that invest in shares, fixed interest securities and cash. The assets in which your money is invested should be familiar and it should be easy to find information about them.
If you are told you must invest in an unusual asset – perhaps an offshore hotel development – to take advantage of a pension “opportunity”, you may be being scammed.
5. You’re asked to withdraw money first
Beware if you are asked to withdraw money from your defined contribution pension for an investment opportunity. It is important that your money remains within a pension wrapper until you decide to start drawing retirement income. Your defined contribution pension is likely to be already invested in a range of funds or investments that your pension provider makes available. This ensures your returns are tax-free and well protected. Furthermore, withdrawing money early could result in tax penalties.
6. You are told to act quickly for the best deal
Decisions about your defined contribution retirement fund should not be rushed and any offers of immediate investment for a one-time offer can be risky. You should take your time and obtain suitable advice and guidance about managing any such pension properly. If you are contacted about an opportunity, research the scheme and its promoters thoroughly. Being pressured to reach a decision before the offer closes could indicate that it is a scam.
Find out more
If you have any concerns about your pension savings get in touch now.
The value of your investments, and the income you receive from them, can go down as well as up, so you could get back less than you put in. A pension is a long-term investment and inflation will reduce how much your income is worth over the years. Your eventual income may depend upon the size of the fund at retirement, future interest rates and tax legislation.