The East Staffordshire branch of the Citizens Advice Bureau, which holds sessions in the town, are warning vulnerable people in Stone about falling prey to pension scams – and giving some top tips on how to avoid them.
They are also inviting Stone residents interested in discussing their pensions to come along to an open day event on Thursday 17th September, at the Stafford Citizens Advice Bureau premises in Eastgate Street.
Over-55s are repeatedly being targeted with cold calls and emails offering fraudulent pension opportunities, warns Staffordshire South West Citizens Advice Bureau. Over four months since the pension reforms came into effect, figures from the national consumer body found that two in five Citizens Advice pensions staff across England and Wales have seen people repeatedly targeted, while a further one in ten saw people unwittingly become the victim of scams by responding
Half of all local Citizens Advice pension workers think that pension scams are evolving into investment scams, targeting the cash lump sums people can release from their pension pots. A further third of staff from across the service think that scams targeting the over 55s have increased.
Emerging scams seen by the Citizens Advice include –
- Unspecified financial products – people are asked by fraudsters to give them access to their pension pots, who would then invest them into financial products on their behalf. Despite offering a high rate of return, scammers were unable to explain what the invesments might be.
- Free pension reviews – people are texted or cold called with offers of a free pension review. The caller then asks to visit the person in their own home, bringing paperwork that would allow them to get access to their pension details. One man responded to an internet advertisement for a free pension review, supplied his details, and was visited by someone claiming to be an independent Financial Advisor who couldn’t describe any investments.
- Investments for pension cash – people are approached with offers to invest their pension cash into products such as property overseas, or fine wines. One investment scam featured two salesmen – one who visited the potential customer to get access to his pension details, and a second to encourage him to invest his pension and any other savings into property in South Africa.
Sue Nicholls, Chief Executive at Staffordshire South West Citizens Advice Bureau, says: “Pension scams threaten people’s financial security. Scammers are finding new ways to go after people’s pension pots, including offering free pension reviews, and promising to invest funds that don’t necessarily exist.
“If you’ve had an offer, or signed up to a pension scheme you’re unsure about, I urge you to call us or come to one of our offices in Stone, Stafford, Cannock or Rugeley, where our staff can offer free help and support.”
Staffordshire South West Citizens Advice Bureau is a Pension Wise delivery centre, where people can access free guidance sessions.
The full survey of more than 460 local Citizens Advice managers, staff, volunteers and Pension Wise guiders also finds that people are most likely to be contacted by cold call, followed by email. Of those who saw people contacted by scammers:
- 4 in 5 said people were contacted by a phone call;
- 1 in 3 said people were contacted by email;
- 1 in 3 said people were contacted by post;
- 1 in 5 said people were approached by text message
Previous evidence from the charity found that over 55s were more likely to report a scam to their local Citizens Advice.
If you think you may have been scammed, you can contact Staffordshire South West Citizens Advice Bureau by calling 03444 111 444
On Thursday 17th September, Staffordshire South West Citizens Advice Bureau’s Stafford office (based in the VAST Hub in Eastgate Street) will be hosting an open day, inviting anyone from the local area who is approaching retirement to pop in and discuss pensions and their options. 100% of clients who have had a free Pension Wise appointment with Staffordshire South West said they have gained an insight into their pension choices, some from using the service, and feel better able to make decisions.
Angela Jones, Advice Services Manager at Staffordshire South West Citizens Advice Bureau, says: “There is no need to call us or register for the open day, simply visit our Stafford office on the day between 12 and 6pm and we’ll be there to welcome you and tell you more about the service we can offer.”
Common signs of a pension scam include
- Pension help for free – an offer of help with your pension, such as a free review or help tracing a lost pension
- High rates of return – any promotion offering you a much higher rate of return than other investors
- Time pressure – if you are told you must provide your details within a short time frame, or sign paperwork from a courier
- Early access – an offer to help you access your pension before the age of 55
How to avoid being scammed
- Never be rushed into making a decision
- Check if the company contacting you is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
- If you are unsure, contact The Pensions Advisory Service on 0300 123 1047 or contact Citizens Advice on 03454 04 05 06 4
- Look at the FCA’s Scamsmart warning list, which gives the names of investment schemes that are known scams – www.fca.org.scamsmart
- If you have already accepted an offer you suspect is a scam, report it to Action Fraud
For further information on pension scams, visit pensionwise.gov.uk