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Guy Opperman MP: together we can stop pension scammers

pension shark

Today the government has announced new measures to tackle pension scams. Guy Opperman MP, Minister for Pensions and Financial Inclusion, joins us as a guest author to explain more…

Pension savings are a personal investment in your future. They are your passport towards a financially secure retirement.

But research shows that every second an average of eight people in the UK are being targeted by cold callers who are after their hard-earned savings. That’s an equivalent of 250 million calls per year.

And sadly, according to new figures, an estimated £43m has been unlawfully obtained by scammers since April 2014, with victims having lost an average of nearly £15,000.

Action on pensions scams

So today we’re announcing a number of new measures to better protect savers. These measures include a ban on all pensions cold calling, and that extends to emails and text messages too.

We’re also tightening HM Revenue and Customs rules to stop scammers opening fraudulent pension schemes, and will be taking tougher actions to help prevent the transfer of money from occupational pension schemes into fraudulent ones.

Having carried out a detailed public consultation, these new measures will be introduced to cut off private pension scams at their very source and protect savers from the threat of unscrupulous scammers – a cause that Which? has been campaigning hard for.

Once introduced, I want to reassure you all that these measures will ensure that no legitimate firm without an existing customer relationship will be able to cold call you about your pension.

This will cut off the main mechanism used by scammers to persuade people that they are offering legitimate pension investments and services, and in doing so also reduce the number of transfers made to illegitimate schemes.

Being scam aware

While today’s announcement should provide assurance to you and millions of others, our advice remains to be scam aware and wary of any form of advice linked to your pension pot or cash lump sums.

To help you be scam aware, here are my eight top tips:

  • 1. Hang up on cold callers: Often scammers will call out of the blue offering a ‘free assessment of your current pension funds’, or free financial advice, for example.They might invite you to ‘use your pension savings more wisely’ by transferring them into investment schemes – such as in properties overseas, storage companies or fine wines – offering low risks and high returns.No reputable organisation would ever do such a thing, so the chances are they’re simply laying the ground work to steal your money. If anyone contacts you out of the blue about your money, don’t talk to them. Just hang up!
  • 2. Research, research, research: If an offer promises ‘guaranteed’ returns or seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be on your guard. Do your homework and check all the details before signing anything. Take a look at the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) list of known scams.
  • 3. Things aren’t always what they seem: Don’t be lured by smart brochures and professional looking websites. Scammers want to trick you and this is one way they do it. Check everything and seek reputable advice.
  • 4. Don’t be rushed into a decision: Scammers will try to pressure you with time-limited offers and create a sense of urgency. Take your time to make all the checks you need, even if this means turning down an ‘amazing’ deal.
  • 5. Friends aren’t always right: Don’t choose a scheme just because someone you know has. Some have fallen for scams simply because they’d been ‘recommended by a friend’. As with any important decisions, investigate the details.
  • 6. Find out if the ‘advisor’ is FCA approved: Scammers can pose as pension advisers, so check to make sure yours is registered on the FCA’s website.
  • 7. If in doubt, call The Pensions Advisory Service: You can call them on 0300 123 1047 or visit their website for free pensions guidance.
  • 8. If you think you’ve been scammed, report it: You can report the scam to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040. You should also contact your pension provider immediately as they may be able to stop a transfer. And nuisance calls can be reported via the Which? nuisance calls reporting tool.

So remember, if a financial deal sounds too good to be true, it usually is – make sure you question the call, hang up, research, report and together we’ll stop these criminals in their tracks.

This is a guest contribution by Guy Opperman, the Minister for Pensions and Financial Inclusion. All views expressed here are the Minister’s own and not necessarily those also shared by Which?.

Have you been cold called about your pension savings? What did you do?

Harvey Elliott says:
24 August 2017

Any scheme to withdraw an entire pension pot should be subject to a 3 month cooling off period. That way the pensioner has ample time to research the validity of any proposed scheme, and change or withdraw as necessary, after taking appropriate advice. alternatively the law should revert back to how it was.

Peter McCormick says:
3 September 2017

My view is that the company that provides the telephone lines for these scammers should be held responsible. There are far too many companies that set up a shady business; charging exhorbitant costs to call them; and telepone companies are happy to take the business from them and not care what they are up to. If telephone companies were held responsible noe of these companies would be able to operate (in the UK). I appreciate that presents a problem if the caller is from outside the UK, however people calling from outside the UK still have to access our phone system, so there should be some indentifaction process available. I would also prohibit companies selling on customer information and have severe penalties for those that do. It seems to me the first step in identification fraud is indentifying a prospective victim, yet we allow companies to freely sell on their customer details, without any real safeguards.


Not quite there Peter many of those calls originate from outside the UK by tech companies that allow ( for a price ) calls to the UK that can be traced if its through the private overseas company – VoIP is just one method I actually know of many websites in the USA that will provide this service to hide your originating call , US authorities can authorize the tracing back of this and have done successfully but in the UK they are up against International law and big business also use those services so dont want it stopped. If the calls actually come from a UK based company then they could be traced and charged but the government wont sanction telephone companies to trace back those calls as it effects business .

Mike Farrow says:
25 August 2017

Did I see anything about prison sentences for fraud, because anything the government try to do, won’t stop them, so how about starting with 5 years and going up depending on the amount. The trouble is door to door or telephones won’t stop them whether it is 5,000 or 500,000 or 5,000,000.

Calista Harris says:
29 August 2017

As Mike says whilst white collar crime is rampant in the UK, loads of discredited CEOs are allowed to start companies after they defrauded loads of people – they should receive custodial sentences and not been allowed to start companies for life. This is justice – all govs do is fine them if and when they catch them. This is unacceptable when small thieves get a criminal record and custodial sentences. Also regulators are useless in this country to include the SFO…


You have every reason to complain Calista I have found charge after charge directed against CEO,s in the USA brought by a US Federal attorney and an agent of the FBI .Another $400million securities fraud ,again the FBI+ various US government departments it just goes on . Yes you guessed right NO “slap on the wrist” here –long jail time forced to sell everything to pay the public back and there,s me thinking the government here copies everything that happens in the USA including its Laws . USA a country that protects its people .

25 August 2017

There should be more emphasis on the spirit of ALL laws passed in Parliament, because the legal eagles that search for loopholes in such legislation, cannot fail to recognise they are basically finding ways to make laws impotent. This is against the spirit of Democracy, & most certainly illegal in itself. This applies to pension laws in particular, as they are neccesarily complicated & give great scope for cynical lawyers to allow their clients free range, to pickpocket us all.

Tony Manson says:
25 August 2017

I really thought it the was the most stupid thing to allow pensions to be taken in large lump sums. It stands to reason that some would see the provision of a car or a holiday as more important than any security for old age. And when their own provision was exhausted in this stupid fashion would then call again for a larger state provision. I am sorry to say too that Brown signalled the end of final salary pension schemes when he stupidly interfered with the tax regime surrounding them. Employers could not act quickly enough to dump them afterwards