True figure could be higher as victims do not spot the scam or are too embarrassed to admit it.
Savers are having millions of pounds from their nest eggs stolen by scammers – in one case an entire £500,000 pot – with football fans particularly at risk, according to watchdogs.
A total of £30 million has been lost to fraudsters in the last three years, as measured by reports to Action Fraud. The true figure is thought to be much higher because not everyone realises they have been scammed, or reports being tricked out of their savings, often out of feeling embarrassed.
Separate research by interactive investor based on 12,000 UK adults at different stages of their retirement journey found 13% admitted to having been scammed, rising to 18% in the 72-77 age category, and 20% among those aged over 77.
Scammers targeted pension pots big and small, with reported losses ranging from under £1,000 to as much as £500,000. The average victim was a man in his 50s.
Myron Jobson, personal finance campaigner at interactive investor, says: “The coronavirus pandemic has created a perfect storm for crooks to shroud their nefarious schemes among the uptick in correspondence by legitimate organisations relating to coronavirus measures.
“Even the most seasoned investor can fall victim to scams, so it is more important than ever to take care with your money and look out for the warning signs.”
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Football fans approaching retirement are particularly vulnerable, research by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) found.
Just 43% knew how much was in their pension pot, making it easier to lose track of missing money, and nearly half (45%) didn’t know how to check if an approach about their pension was legitimate.
To speak to this group, the FCA and the Pension Regulator has teamed up with football commentator Clive Tyldesley in an advertising campaign to raise awareness about the warning signs of pension scams.
Scammers design attractive offers to persuade you to transfer your pension pot to them, often setting ‘time-limited offers’ or deadlines to pressure you into releasing your money.
Tyldesley says: “Scammers are very good at breaking down your defences and putting you under pressure with various deadlines. But your pension isn’t a football transfer – there are no deadlines.
“Your favourite team wouldn't buy a new striker just because his agent says he's good. They’d ask around, check out his stats, do some research – just like you should when handling your pension plans.”
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While 76% of football fans in the FCA survey knew the cost of items related to their team, such as a football shirt or season ticket, only 43% knew how much was currently in their pension pot.
Most of those asked (65%) felt sure they would be able to spot a scam. But this overconfidence can in fact leave them more exposed.
Four in 10 would fall for a common scam tactic such as being told it is a time-limited offer, or that there is a guaranteed high return on their savings.
Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement at the FCA, said: “During these uncertain times, it is more important than ever to defend your lifetime savings from scammers.
“Fraudsters will seek out every opportunity to exploit innocent people, no matter how much or how little you have saved.”
Savers should check the status of a firm before changing their pension by visiting the FCA register and the ScamSmart website, and get advice from an FCA authorised firm.
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