In Depth

Pension changes: how to stop the scammers

Con artists are lining up to take advantage of the new pension rules. Here's how to avoid the scams

We all know what it is like to get an irritating cold call. My phone goes at around 4pm every day when a friendly soul from Accident Direct asks if I'd like to make a claim for the accident I just had. I've told him time and again I'm in fine health and haven't had an accident. He keeps calling. It's annoying but doesn't bother me too much. But, for many people cold calling can be a lot more dangerous. It's estimated that as a nation we lost £670m to the ten biggest financial scams last year.If that wasn't bad enough, it is about to get worse. The changes to pension rules that came in this month have put pound signs in the eyes of con artists everywhere.

That's because now anyone over the age of 55 can access all of their pension pot. That is a lot of money and many of us don't have a clue what to do with it. As a result you can expect to receive a lot more emails, letters and phone calls from people ready to part you from your pension with their scams.

So, what do you need to look out for?

Be alert

If someone contacts you with a pension offer that sounds too good to be true it probably is. Some of the most common scams involve promising to get hold of your whole pension tax-free, offering an amazing investment opportunity with ludicrously good returns, or saying they can help you access your pension early. Don't be fooled by any of it. Remember if their business proposition was so great, they wouldn't have to contact you to sell it, customers would beat a path to their door.

Be smart

Knowledge is power when it comes to fighting scammers. Take the time to read up on the pension rules – they really aren't as complicated as you think. Then you will know when someone is promising the impossible. You can find out about it all on the government's Pension Wise website (pensionwise.gov.uk).

Get help

Deciding what to do with your pension in order to ensure you get the best possible retirement income is one of the biggest financial decisions you will ever make. If you aren't sure then seek professional help from a qualified independent financial advisor. They will give you unbiased advice and help you avoid scams. You can find an IFA at unbiased.co.uk.

Check credentials

Anyone offering you an investment opportunity or pension advice will be registered with the Financial Conduct Authority if they are above board. You can check at www.fca.org.uk/register.

Take your time

No matter where you hear about an investment opportunity never rush in. Always say you want some time to think about it. That way you can double-check it is a legitimate offer, and enter into any financial agreement happy that you weren't bullied into it. A sure sign of a scam is a time-limited offer, or an incredibly pushy advisor.

You've spent decades building up your pension pot but it could be wiped out in minutes by a scam. Be extra vigilant, don't sign anything you don't fully understand and remember, if it sounds to good to be true it probably is.

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