Cons revealed as pension fraudsters ruin our freedom

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Convicted fraudsters "were literally rubbing their hands" after the Government introduced the new pension freedoms in April, according to a report from the City of London Police.

The news serves as a fresh warning to people aged 55 and over who are thinking about their retirement saving options; they should be wary of cold-callers offering investment schemes that are "too good to be true".

Commissioner Adrian Leppard told a cyber-crime conference this week that detectives have carried out hundreds of prison interviews with convicted fraudsters to discover the secrets of investment cons that cost the UK £30bn every year.

In the interviews, fraudsters revealed the techniques used in boiler-room operations – the high-pressure telephone selling of fake or worthless investments – and other frauds.

One criminal said people willingly gave up their personal details after mass emails were sent out offering free gifts and competitions to win iPads. "Our sales people then made the follow-up calls," the criminal said. "As far as I'm concerned, these people wanted to be called or they wouldn't have registered."

This summer National Trading Standards identified around 200,000 people who are on a fraudsters' "sucker" list, and warned that the average age of victims is 74.

This highlights the fact that crooks like to prey on older people on the grounds they more likely to fall for their clever stings.

If you're offered a free pension review, for instance, be on your guard. It's almost certainly from a crook hoping to part you with your nest-egg.

It's essential to check the credentials of the person or so-called company that has made the offer. Find out whether the firm making contact with you is regulated by either the Financial Conduct Authority or the Pensions Regulator.

Last month Citizens Advice reported that many people are being repeatedly targeted for pension frauds. Two out of five staff at the debt charity said they had dealt with people who had been on the receiving end of attempted scams more than once. One in 10 of the charity's staff helping the Government's Pension Wise service said they had seen people who had either responded or fallen prey to a scam.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: "Pension and investment scams are particularly dangerous as they can destroy people's entire pension pots, leaving them with little or no savings for retirement."

One of the most common scams since the pension freedoms were announced has been investment opportunities abroad. The smooth-talking sales people flogging the deals can sound very convincing. However, the pension company Aegon reports that eight out of 10 requests for overseas pension transfers that have been brought to its attention are scams to defraud savers.

"Fraudsters are not only plausible but are also highly persuasive, and it can be all too easy to fall for their polished performance unless you are on your guard," warned Kate Smith of Aegon UK. "We're seeing more and more sophisticated ways of unscrupulous people getting their hands on people's retirement savings."

If you have accepted an offer you think is a scam, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

For further information on pension scams, visit Pensionwise.gov.uk.

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