Pension scammers have increased their criminal activities, will do so further still over the next few months, and are adapting their approach in response to the forthcoming pension freedoms, according to one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory organisations.
deVere Group, which has 80,000 clients globally, reports that a growing number of their clients have been contacted by firms offering to ‘liberate’ their retirement savings from April 2015, when restrictions on pensions access are lifted.
deVere Group founder and chief executive, Nigel Green, comments: “Since the pension freedoms and flexibilities were announced, we have noted a month-on-month increase in clients telling our consultants that they have been cold called or emailed from so-called ‘pension liberation’ firms, many of which it can be assumed are unauthorised or operating illegally.
“In total, it is estimated that almost a quarter of our clients have been approached in one form or another since the government unveiled its ‘pension freedom’ reforms. Clients are typically told that they can benefit from ‘unrivalled returns’ by transferring their funds.
“Perhaps unsurprisingly, these companies are primarily focusing on those aged 55 and over as these individuals are the ones who will soon, legitimately, have access to their funds if they wish. However, some clients under the age of 55 have reported that they have also been approached and subsequently informed by the scammers that there are ‘legal ways’ to liberate their retirement savings – which is, of course, not the case.”
Mr Green warns: “I suspect that as the new freedoms and flexibilities come into effect in April, the pension scam artists will increase their activities yet further as they will see it as ‘boom time’. No longer will they need to convince both the provider and the pension holder into shifting funds into fraudulent or non-existent schemes, just the pension holder, who could end-up potentially losing their entire retirement fund. With this in mind, the scammers have adapted their tactics to reflect the changing pensions landscape.
“Anyone who does access their pension pot early could reasonably expect to be a target for pension liberation scammers. I would urge anyone who is contacted to ‘liberate’ their pension to be extra cautious, not to be rushed into making a decision they might regret, and to seek professional independent financial advice before proceeding.”
He concludes: “In general terms, our advice is to resist, where possible, the temptation to access pensions to avoid the risk of compromising your retirement ambitions, making hasty decisions, and facing hefty tax charges.”