- Government and industry action on cold-calling and scams appears to be translating into positive results
- Yet scams remain a huge danger for pension savers given importance of later-life savings
The proportion of UK adults receiving unsolicited approaches about their pension in the last year has dropped substantially over the past five years according to analysis of the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) Financial Lives Survey.
The research from leading independent consultancy Broadstone finds that a fifth (20%) of adults experienced a pension-related unsolicited approach in the previous 12 months in 2017, however this dropped to 16% in 2020 before plummeting even further to 7% in 2022.
It means the proportion of adults reporting a recent potentially fraudulent approach about their pension savings has fallen by 6.5 million from around 10.2 million in 2017 to 3.7 million in 2022.
All age groups recorded significant drops but the drop was particularly sharp among 55–64-year-olds with unsolicited pension approaches dropping from 27% and 26% in 2017 and 2020 to 13% in 2022.
This demographic is the most targeted by scammers because of their ability to access pension savings from age 55, their need to make decisions ahead of retirement and their pot is reaching its peak.
In terms of common tactics, 3% said that they had received calls, emails or text messages claiming to be from the Government offering retirement planning advice down from 14% in 2017.
A further 4% said they had been offered a free pension review, half the proportion of 2017 (8%), while just 2% were offered the ability to ‘unlock’ their pension early (before 55), dropping by a two-thirds compared to 2017 (6%).
Other scammer tactics included the chance to invest money released from a pension with very high or guaranteed returns (2%), the offer of a ‘loan’, ‘saving advance’ or ‘cashback’ to take advantage of a pension deal (2%), or the promise of transferring a pension to a new scheme with a guaranteed high return (1%).
Taking action against pension scams, the Government banned pensions cold-calling in 2019 and introduced regulations in 2021 giving pension trustees and scheme managers new powers to stop suspicious pension transfers ending up in the hands of a fraudster.
Simon Kew, Head of Market Engagement at Broadstone noted “Pension scams ruin lives and inflict immense financial and mental trauma on victims.
“It is great that we are seeing substantial progress against fraudsters with the proportion of adults receiving unsolicited approaches regarding their pension falling rapidly. Action from the Regulator and the Government appears to be making a really positive impact.
“However, even just one pension scam is too many and as an industry we must remain vigilant against the actions of fraudsters. Continuing to drive public awareness about the risks of pension scams and how people can protect themselves is crucial. Pension scheme trustees and administrators also have an important role to play in spotting red flags to protect their members.”
The FCA provides a number of resources to help people understand whether an approach is a scam such as:
- The FCA register which is a list of firms and individuals and the permissions they have to carry out regulated financial services activities;
- The FCA warning list which can be used to check if a firm or individual is known to be operating without permission or running scams.
- The ScamSmart campaign aiming to increase awareness of the tactics used by scammers to help potential victims spot fraud attempts. The website provides information to help individuals protect themselves from scams.
Other industry initiatives include TPR’s new strategy to combat pension scams launched last year and its Pension Scams Action Group (PSAG), formerly Project Bloom, as well as the Pension Scams Industry Group (PSIG) – the voluntary body set up to combat pension scams through the publication of good practice for trustees, providers and administrators.