How to avoid pension scams

Part I – Administrators

Helping protect your members from scams

In the current conditions, the risk of scams is something that administrators need to be aware of.

Savers might increasingly look to transfer their pension, prompted by the instability of their employer or the financial markets.

This means they could be increasingly targeted by scammers attempting to lure them to ‘safe havens’. If a saver asks about transferring their pension, urge them to exercise extreme caution and visit ScamSmart which has specific guidance relating to COVID-19.

Some of the most searched for investment and pension scams on the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) ScamSmart website include:

  1. Cryptocurrency (e.g. Bitcoin)
  2. Binary options
  3. Foreign exchange
  5. Bonds
  6. Pension review
  7. Pension loan/liberation

Trustees should also signpost their members to the Money and Pensions Service – particularly those approaching retirement and whose pension may have been affected by the current economic conditions.

Part II – Members

How to avoid pension scams

Scammers usually use cold calling contact methods or even online adverts. Sometimes they may even be introduced to you by a friend of family member who is oblivious to the fact that they’re being scammed.

These are some of the false claims they will use to try and gain your trust:

  • they will claim that they’re authorised by the FCA or that they don’t need to be authorised because they are not providing the advice themselves
  • They will also try and claim that they are acting on behalf of the FCA or the government service Pension Wise.

What are the warning signs?

Scam offers often include:

  • free pension reviews
  • higher returns
  • unusual investments
  • complicated structures where it isn’t clear where your money will end up
  • long-term pension investments – which mean it could be several years before you realise something is wrong

4 Steps to Protect Yourself From Pension Scams

Step 1 – rejected unexpected offers

As mentioned earlier, if you are contacted out of the blue about a pension opportunity, the chances are it’s high risk or a scam.

If you get a cold call about your pension, the safest thing to do is hang up – its illegal and probably a scam. Report pension cold calls to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Step 2 – check who you’re dealing with

Check the FCA’s Financial Services Register to make sure that anyone offering you advice or other financial services is FCA authorised.

Step 3 – don’t be rushed or pressured

Make sure you take the time to carry out all the checks you need to take – even if this means turning down an ‘amazing deal’. Be wary of anything that sounds too good to be true.

Step 4 – get impartial information or advice

You should consider seeking financial guidance or advice before changing your pension arrangements. Here are some places you can seek information from:

  • The Pensions Advisory Service provides free independent and impartial information and guidance
  • Pension Wise have a defined contribution pension if you’re over 50, where they offer pre-booked appointments to talk through your retirement options.

how to avoid pension scams

If you would like to find out more information on this topic, visit the FCA’s website here or you can contact us on 020 7112 8300 or email If you found this information useful, sign up to our newsletter here to receive fresh content on a monthly basis.