26/09/17Dig deep to stay one step ahead of the scammers
If crime didn’t pay, there would be a lot less of it about.
Unfortunately, scammers, thieves and conmen don’t seem to be deterred. In fact, many are inventing different ways of parting you from your hard-earned cash.
One new method has caused The Pension Regulator (TPR) to issue a warning to keep the public (and their pensions) safe from scammers. The development has seen several suspected scam websites referred to TPR, over suspicions they are being disguised as genuine investments. Worryingly, these sites are even carrying anti-scam messages to trick the public into trusting them.
Pension scams are already an all-too-common problem. But, with the scammers changing tactics, making it harder to spot a genuine website, how can you stay out of harm’s way?
Cold calling ban
Pension scams are a recurring problem for many over 50s in the UK, with over 1.8 million people contacted by phone, text or email in the past three months (Source: Moneywise ).
Most people will therefore welcome the news that the Government plans to introduce a cold calling ban in respect of pensions which, it is thought, will also include text messages and emails.
Whilst the ban will act as a deterrent, people should remain vigilant. The scams and cold calling won’t necessarily stop, it’ll just be illegal.
To combat the scammers, TPR is currently leading a multi-agency taskforce called Project Bloom with the support of:
- Department for Work & Pensions
- HM Treasury
- Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
- HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)
- Serious Fraud Office
- City of London Police
- National Fraud Intelligence Bureau
- The Pensions Advisory Service
- National Crime Agency
This initiative was set up in 2015 to tackle the high levels of pension fraud. It has provided a support network for those who have been scammed, and has run several campaigns to educate the public, and deter the fraudsters.
Scammers are no stranger to inventing new and elaborate ways of deceiving people. However, the latest technique of carrying official Project Bloom campaign material on their website to lull people into a false sense of security is particularly worrying. Some of the warnings on the scammer sites include messages about:
- The dangers of cold calling
- The importance of being regulated by the FCA
- The risks of accessing your pension before 55
Lesley Titcomb, Chief Executive at TPR said: “These sites are wolves in sheep’s clothing, lying in wait for unsuspecting victims by portraying themselves as being beyond reproach. The truth is that this next generation of scam sites poses a real threat to people’s financial futures and should be avoided.”
What is the damage?
Government figures suggest that (Source: HMRC ) almost £5 million was unlawfully obtained by pension scammers in the first five months of 2017. This puts the total at £43 million in the last four years, with the average victim losing nearly £15,000.
Malcolm McLean, senior consultant at Barnett Waddingham, said: “Scammers are pretty clever people. It is very clear that the original messages (on scams) are applicable here – if someone contacts you out of the blue, without any approach from you in the first place, then you should be extremely suspicious and in most cases, do not deal with them at all.”
How do I avoid a scam?
Prevention is much better than a cure, and the most effective way to avoid being scammed is to remain vigilant at all times. The fact that scam websites are carrying anti-scam messages means that now is the time to question anybody who approaches you out of the blue, regarding your pension, savings or other financial matters.
Warning signs often include:
- Being contacted by an individual who is not listed on the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) register
- Being discouraged from taking professional advice
- Being pressured that a deal has a time limit, or needs to be acted on immediately
- Suggestions to withdraw your entire pension pot and invest it
- Anybody offering to help you access your pension before you are 55
Doing your research on current scams can also keep you out of harm’s way, with resources such as the ScamSmart tool on the FCA website (which can be found here).
The cold calling ban will take time to filter out any rogue callers, but in the meantime, savers should stay very much on their guard. In fact, people are more likely to stay safe if they simply decide to never buy or take advice from anyone who is cold calling them.
There will always be those who can’t stay away from a deal that looks ‘too good to be true’, but as the old, but completely accurate adage states; ‘it always is’.
An Independent Financial Adviser can help you to spot a scam, and will be more than happy to provide proof they are on the FCA register.
If you are worried about financial scams, or need genuine, Independent Financial Advice, please don’t hesitate to get in touch using the phone number at the top of the page.