Members at increased risk of scams, watchdogs warn

TPR, FCA and Maps say members are at ‘increased risk’ amid economic uncertainty

Jonathan Stapleton
clock • 3 min read
Pensions minister Laura Trott: We’re committed to arming savers with the tools they need to spot duplicitous fraudsters Image: parliament.uk (CC BY 3.0)
Image:

Pensions minister Laura Trott: We’re committed to arming savers with the tools they need to spot duplicitous fraudsters Image: parliament.uk (CC BY 3.0)

The Pensions Regulator (TPR), Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Money and Pensions Service (Maps) have joined forces to warn trustees and savers of a potential increased risk from scammers seeking to cash in on economic uncertainty.

The warning - issued today (11 November) - comes amid fears that recent headlines over squeezed household finances may leave savers more vulnerable to scammers.

The three bodies - all members of the Pension Scams Action Group (PSAG), a multi-agency taskforce dedicated to keeping savers safe from scams - are concerned that fears over the economy, such as recent extreme movements in gilt yields, may prompt savers to incorrectly decide there is a risk to their retirement pots and make rushed decisions about their finances.

While the three organisations had not yet seen evidence of an increase in pension scams, they explained they wanted to act now given concern over cost of living increases and interest rate rises, which may make savers more likely to look for ways to shore up their finances. This may potentially leave them exposed to crooks set on exploiting their fears.

Don't panic

TPR executive director of frontline regulation and PSAG spokeswoman Nicola Parish said: "Pension schemes are not at risk of collapse. It's vital that savers who have seen recent headlines over the economy don't panic and rush a decision over their retirement savings.

"Scammers exploit uncertainty. And savers' worries about their finances may make them more vulnerable to fraudsters' common tactics. Scammers may pose as people or organisations savers trust. They may contact savers out-of-the blue to make promises that appear too good to be true - because they are."

She added: "We urge all savers to avoid hasty decisions and contact MoneyHelper for free, impartial guidance before taking any action. Savers can also find more information on how to spot the warning signs and check that they are dealing with a legitimate firm by visiting the FCA's ScamSmart website."

FCA executive director of enforcement and market oversight Mark Steward said: "The FCA urges anyone wanting pension advice to ensure they are dealing with an adviser authorised by the FCA on our register. Our ScamSmart website contains important information that will help you avoid scams as well as links to our register."

Maps head of guidance services and customer protection strategy Charlotte Jackson said: "We know that some savers may be worried about their pension pots. Scammers may try and take advantage of this uncertainty, so it's important that you take the time to get free, impartial guidance from our pension specialists at MoneyHelper before making any major decisions.

 "We will continue to work with the Pension Scams Action Group to protect consumers and signpost them to the information they need to make informed decisions."

Evolving defences

Minister for pensions Laura Trott said: "We're committed to arming savers with the tools they need to spot duplicitous fraudsters, who can be articulate, appear financially knowledgeable, and offer time-limited deals - all designed to convince people to hand over their hard-earned pension savings.

"As scammers' crooked techniques evolve, so must our defences, and we continue to work closely with partners across industry, regulators and law enforcement to send scammers packing. Savers can also get on the front foot themselves - knowing the common signs of a pension scam is a great way to start."

Read more: Eight common signs of a pension scam

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