There has been a five-fold increase in visits to a website from people seeking information about pension scams, following the launch of a joint campaign by regulators.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)’s ScamSmart website, which allows people to check pension opportunities they have been offered and find out more about avoiding scams, is being visited every 27 seconds typically.
The FCA and the Pensions Regulator (TPR) launched the joint drive to raise awareness about pension frauds in the summer.
Victims of pension scams last year lost an average of £91,000 each to fraudsters.
They reported receiving cold calls, offers of free pension reviews and promises that they would get high rates of return – all of which are key warning signs of scams.
Before the launch of the awareness drive, an average of 562 visits were being made to the ScamSmart website per day.
But after the launch, an average of 3,145 visits to the website per day were recorded – around five times the number previously and the equivalent of one visit to the website every 27 seconds.
Nicola Parish, TPR’s executive director of frontline regulation, said: “The dramatic increase in the number of people visiting ScamSmart for information is very encouraging but this is not the end of the campaign.
“Every pension holder is a potential scam victim so it’s vital that we continue spreading the word about scammers and how they operate to prevent more people handing over their funds to criminals.”
The two regulators are urging all pension holders to be on their guard against pension scams as new research suggests that half (52%) of 45 to 65-year-olds with a pension do not think they are likely to be targeted by a pension scam.
The most common reasons given were that they believe they are too savvy to be scammed (21%) or that they do not think they have enough money saved in their pension (18%).
Research from the FCA estimates more than 10 million UK adults have received an unsolicited pension offer in just one year.
Mark Steward, the FCA’s executive director of enforcement and market oversight, said: “Our research shows that many pension holders believe they are too savvy to be scammed.
“But pension scams are often very sophisticated and difficult to spot.
“Scammers will target people from all walks of life and with any size pension.
“The best way to protect yourself is to always check the FCA register to make sure that anyone offering you pension advice or any other financial service is authorised by the FCA.”
The FCA and TPR are part of Project Bloom, a task force working to combat pension scams.
The task force includes the Department for Work and Pensions, the Treasury, the Serious Fraud Office, City of London Police, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, the Pensions Advisory Service and the National Crime Agency.
The Treasury has laid regulations that will ban pension cold calling early in 2019.
Guy Opperman, minister for pensions and financial inclusion, said: “Pension scams are devastating for people and can rob them of the retirement they planned.
“Raising awareness of how these heartless criminals operate is key to tackling fraud, and the response to this campaign is encouraging.
“I would urge savers to always exercise caution and seek independent guidance or advice before making important financial decisions – free, impartial guidance is available from Pension Wise or the Pensions Advisory Service.”
Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell, said: “By launching a dedicated campaign warning about the dangers of scams – including a highly effective television advert – the regulators have already helped boost awareness among consumers.
“Ultimately improving engagement and understanding of scams is the most effective way to tackle the problem in the long term.
“The research published today tells us more work still needs to be done on this front, with many people aged 45 to 65 years old still seemingly oblivious to the fact they are prime targets for pension scammers.”
The FCA and TPR are urging people to be ScamSmart with their pension and always check who they are dealing with.
The regulators recommend four steps to protect yourself from pension scams:
1. Reject unexpected pension offers whether made online, on social media or over the phone.
2. Check who you are dealing with before changing your pension arrangements – check the FCA register or call the FCA contact centre on 0800 111 6768 to see if the firm you are dealing with is authorised by the FCA.
3. Do not be rushed or pressured into making any decision about your pension.
4. Consider getting impartial information and advice.
– If you think you have been a victim of a pension scam, report it. Visit www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart to find out more.