Sunday 17th December 2017
14th November 2017
Pensioners have lost more than £43 million to financial scams since the Pension Freedoms regulations were introduced in 2015, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) estimates. Though experts believe this is an under-reported figure and the actual amount lost to fraud could be up to £1 billion over the past three years.
The changes mean that people can manage their pensions however suits them. But this brings an increase in opportunistic scammers looking to deprive those savers of their hard-earned money.
The best weapons against scammers are education and vigilance. To help, this guide covers all the ways you can protect yourself from scammers and keep your precious savings where they belong.
Understanding how scammers may target you goes a long way in protecting your assets and identifying the warning signs so that you can avoid a potentially dangerous situation as soon as it is presented. The most common schemes are:
There are several tell-tale signs which give scams away:
Scammers are often in a rush. They add urgency to the situation to make their targets flustered and confused, leaving no time for logical thought or to notice the details which might make you stop and think.
If you don’t remember giving you details to a company or feel that the communication method does not suit them, take a step back to analyse the situation. Verify the contact using another method.
Any contact asking you to transfer money, or accept money from an unknown source is a cause for concern. Do not give any banking details away to people and companies you do not know well and do not accept payments from unverified sources.
Emails claiming to be from well-known brands are easily identified as scams by looking at the sender’s address. Sometimes, they are obviously not connected to the organisation. Whilst it can be hard to tell, one of the simplest ways to check is to copy and paste the contact information into a search engine and see if it leads to a verified source. This can also lead to review websites where other potential victims leave comments and warnings.
Not everyone is a bestselling author, but reputable companies usually have a professional writer and proof-reader on-staff to make sure that marketing and customer communications are well-written.
Scammers often rush their methods and may not speak English as a first language. The occasional typo or misspelling can be forgivable, but continuous spelling and grammatical errors are a major red flag.
Simply using a search engine to find information about a message you have received can tell you whether it is legitimate or not. Forums and social media are a great source of company reviews and people will not be shy about warning others that they have spotted a scam.
There are many official registers which reputable companies will be on. If you are contacted by a company in a regulated sector, you can search for them on the relevant register to see their listing, or lack thereof. A list of registers is included in the resources at the bottom of the guide.
No matter how small, if any part of a phone call, letter or email makes you suspicious, you have every right to stop communicating and take steps to protect yourself, or seek professional advice. It is always better to check than to be the victim of a costly crime, and legitimate companies will be happy to accommodate and verify their business.
Sometimes, scammers are given the contact details for everyone in a company and will target them all. If you receive an email or phone call at work, ask around to see if anyone has experienced anything similar. They may know that a new client is due to contact you, or they may have received something suspicious too.
Large-scale scams are often reported in the media and new methods of committing fraud can be big news. Keep yourself informed about the latest attempts to prevent the victimisation of both yourself and your family, friends and colleagues.
Above all, remember the golden rule: if it sounds too good to be true, it will be. There is always a catch and high return, low risk investments simply do not exist.
Bank safe online
Financial Fraud Action UK
Financial Conduct Authority
Which? Scam updates
Financial Services Register
Companies house register
Claim Management regulator