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From phishing to phone calls: how Britons can stop fraudsters in their tracks

Despite the efforts of the Government and financial services regulatory bodies to clamp down on fraudsters, their presence is more prevalent than ever.

Indeed, recent figures from UK finance revealed that savers lost a total of £135.1 million to investment scams in 2020. Worse still, payment service providers were only able to return £49 million – a mere 36% of the total amount stolen.

As scammers remain a clear and present danger to savers’ money, it is vital to understand the key warning signs to help Britons spot fraudsters and, more importantly, protect their hard saved pension pot…

Avoid suspicious emails

One of the more popular tactics adopted by scammers in recent years is the phishing email. These are emails that appear to be from financial advisers, pension providers or wealth managers, intended to trick people into parting with their money. 

The key to spotting these emails is the generic salutations, such as “Dear account holder” or “Dear valued member”. A person’s usual provider, bank, adviser etc., would refer to clients by name via email or call them directly if necessary.

Such emails also tend to include links to web platforms, which will require users to enter personal details or facilitate a fraudulent transfer. Legitimate companies would rarely – if at all – request this, so it is advisable for Britons to avoid clicking onto any links unless their legitimacy has been confirmed with their existing bank, pension provider, or wealth manager.

Likewise, it is always important to check the email address. If the correspondence comes from anything other than the specific email address of a legitimate company, the email should be deleted as soon as possible.

Unsolicited phone calls

Whilst pension cold calling was banned in 2019, many fraudsters still try their luck to catch adults off guard over the telephone. Because they believe the individual to be unnerved by the ‘out of the blue’ contact, they attempt to overwhelm them with jargonistic, yet vague, phrases such as ‘free pension review’, ‘one-off investment opportunity’, ‘cash bonus’ and ‘government endorsement’.

They also often refer to transferring funds ‘overseas’ and apply pressure to force savers into an instant decision about transferring their money.

A legitimate financial adviser, pension provider, or any other organisation or individual regulated by the FCA would never participate in any of the above. For example, My Pension Expert only reaches out to prospective clients once they have formally requested a meeting via our website and encourage clients to take their time to make any major pension decisions, following a consultation.

As such, any unsolicited contact from a so-called adviser is almost certainly fraudulent, and contact should be ceased immediately,

‘Too good to be true’ promises

Vitally, if an offer seems too good to be true, it likely is. For example, many scammers claim to have found a ‘legal loophole’ so that a saver can access their pension before the age of 55 – the current pension freedom age.

This is certainly not true, as early access to one’s pension, unless in the context of very specific circumstances, inevitably results in a huge tax bill, in addition to the money lost through the scam itself. So, an individual or company suggesting this is possible is clearly a fraud.

Britons must remember that all legitimate pension providers, wealth managers, and independent financial advisers will be on the FCA register. So, savers should search companies or individuals on the register if they are suspicious of any correspondence. If they are not registered, it is likely a scam.

The concept of pension fraudsters can be frightening. However, if savers are aware of the major warning signs and research any suspicious correspondence, the UK should experience a gradual decrease in the number of fraud cases over the coming years.