Pension savers need to be extra vigilant as fraudsters circle the market.
A fresh warning comes from the Insolvency Service, which says it has shut down 24 companies found to be guilty of pension abuse since 2015.
Around 3,750 victims are known to have been hit, including individuals and businesses who lost a combined £202 million.
The Insolvency Service is part of the Department for Business, which investigates and winds up companies where there is evidence of misconduct – and can disqualify directors.
Shocking: Around 3,750 victims are known to have been hit, including individuals and businesses who lost a combined £202 million
It has released the latest update in a bid to highlight the dangers of transferring pension money into scams.
From the 24 companies wound up, eight directors were disqualified for a combined 57 years.
Included in the list are directors of two pension companies found to be negligent in their role as trustees. The trustees failed to ensure pension schemes were run properly according to the law and exposed members’ funds to higher risk.
Consumer Minister and Conservative MP Kelly Tolhurst says: ‘If you are approached to make an investment from your pension, always do your homework and seek independent advice. If you think you are a victim, report it to Action Fraud or visit the Scam-Smart website for further help.’
Meanwhile, Alistair McQueen, head of savings and retirement at insurer Aviva, says: ‘There is no room for complacency. We may spend 40 years saving, so we should spend more than 40 minutes considering our options at retirement.’
The warnings come too late for Maria McCulloch, who turns 65 this year and had planned to retire – until she lost £65,000 of her savings in a pension scam.
Maria, who lives in Ayrshire, south of Glasgow, had wanted to consolidate three different pension pots into one.
An unexpected phone call back in 2012 suggesting she could do just that – and transfer her retirement funds to a new scheme – seemed like good timing. She was even visited at home by the introducer – a man who seemed utterly genuine.
Be warned: Common tactics used by scammers to reel in victims are to cold-call, offer free pension reviews, lie about their expertise and promise sky-high rates of return
Later she was told her money, which was invested in storage units, had bombed. The company then offered her an alternative deal through ‘Fast Pensions’.
It reassured her she would still end up with £80,000 at retirement and she was visited at home again by an ‘independent consultant’ who charged her a £1,000 set-up fee.
Later on she was alerted by Revenue & Customs about an unpaid tax bill, at which point details of the pension scam unravelled. She says: ‘I received a stack of paperwork before transferring my savings into Fast Pensions and it looked legitimate.
‘I even asked a friend what they thought and they agreed it looked fine.’
Maria adds: ‘My head is still spinning. I trusted people I shouldn’t have and I now want to help raise awareness to stop this happening to anyone else.’
She relayed her experience to national fraud reporting centre Action Fraud.
The information she provided helped the Insolvency Service to get Fast Pensions and five other related firms wound up by the courts last year.
It is not yet known if she will be able to recover any of her £65,000.
Common tactics used by scammers to reel in victims are to cold-call, offer free pension reviews, lie about their expertise and promise sky-high rates of return – the likes of which are not available anywhere else.
Cold-calling about pensions has now been banned – making it clear that people should not accept advice from anyone contacting them out of the blue.
Aviva’s McQueen adds: ‘If you receive an unsolicited contact about your pension, hang up the phone, delete the email or dump the text. It is now illegal to make such contact.’