The Pensions Regulator (TPR) and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have launched a refreshed ScamSmart campaign to warn savers about unsolicited pension communications.
The advertising campaign comes after updated figures revealed savers lost around £91,000 each on average from scammers promising lucrative returns from fraudulent schemes, with a third unsure of how to check whether the person they are speaking to is legitimate.
The regulators are recommending four steps to savers when receiving unsolicited messages - either by phone, post, email or social media - to help recognise when they are at risk of being scammed. These are: immediately rejecting unexpected pension offers; check on the person making contact with the FCA; take time and do not succumb to pressure; and consider getting impartial information or advice.
Pensions and financial inclusion minister Guy Opperman said such scams could be "devastating for hardworking people".
A YouGov survey of 1,018 adults commissioned by the two watchdogs also found one in eight 45- to 65-year-olds would trust the offer of a ‘free pension review' from someone claiming they were a pension adviser, but this is the most common gateway to becoming a scam victim.
TPR last month warned scammers were masquerading as the watchdog to offer free pension reviews to savers, while Prudential research published in May found one in 10 over-55s feared they had been targeted by scammers since the pension freedoms were introduced in 2015.
The campaign, launched today (14 August) will use advertising on television, radio, online video and website banners, as well as paid search results, and attempts to show the contrast between lifestyles endured by victims and enjoyed at their expense by criminals.
It comes ahead of a government-enforced cold-calling ban, which will make it illegal for companies to contact savers about their pensions where there is no prior relationship. The ban, which has been in the pipeline for almost a year now, has been continually delayed but is expected to take effect in the autumn.
TPR executive director of frontline regulation Nicola Parish said: "£91,000 is a huge amount of money for someone approaching retirement to suddenly have ripped from their savings," she said.
FCA executive director of enforcement and market oversight Mark Seward added: "The size of individual pension pots makes pensions savings an attractive target for fraudsters. That's why we're urging anyone who is thinking about transferring their pension to check who they are dealing with and only use firms authorised by the FCA."
The renewed campaign was welcomed by industry commentators. Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association policy lead for engagement, EU and regulation James Walsh noting it was "vital" the industry keeps on combatting scammers.
He pointed also to the Pension Scams Industry Group's recently updated code, and called on the government to legislate for an authorisation regime for all pension schemes.
"However, none of these initiatives is a silver bullet. Scammers are very quick to adapt their methods, so we must remain vigilant if we are to help keep savers safe."
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