Simon Read: 'Could crooks and scammers exploit pension confusion?'

Some people feel they're already been victims of pension scammers

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The biggest problem with the new pensions freedoms is the risk of crooks and scammers. They've already been busy trying to tempt people out of their retirement savings and they're likely to get even busier next week.

But some people feel they're already been victims of pension scammers. Last December I reported the plight of Independent reader Michael Williams, who was advised to take out a pension mortgage. Like today's potential pension victims, he has faced serious financial detriment by following the wrong advice. And like today's potential victims, he's probably only one of many facing financial disaster.

What was his mistake? He trusted someone who suggested he link his mortgage to his pension. Back in 1988, when he followed that advice, it was quite mainstream. That's why he warns that there could be thousands of others in the same boat as him, many who may still be unaware of the disaster that could engulf them.

Michael's financial woes have led him to the near certainty that he will lose his family home. Because of the severe under-performance of his pension fund he doesn't have enough cash to pay off his mortgage and will have to sell his property to survive.

He's been let down by advisers and regulators because of a ridiculous anomaly: if he had started his pension mortgage after August 1988, when financial laws changed, he would probably have been in line for official compensation by now.

"I thought I was making sensible provision for clearing my mortgages and having a pension, but I ended up with a huge shortfall," he says. "Like many others, I suspect, I have had to extend my working life, but fell foul of the tax laws again when I tried to draw some of my pension money to try to offset the mortgage debt. I discovered it is lumped in with earnings, creating a huge great income tax bill and therefore defeating the whole point of it."

Does that sound familiar? Anyone attempting to cash in their pension pot next week could also face a huge tax bill if they don't tread carefully!

Back to Michael. He's been through the regulatory mill in trying to get justice for what he sees as his pension mis-selling, but has been stonewalled at every turn. "I've had to bite the bullet and put the home I have been lovingly restoring for the last 15 or so years on the market," he says.

He hopes that downsizing may help raise the money he needs to pay off the mortgage capital sum and still leave him with somewhere to live.

He's also hopeful of getting justice, but can't afford an expensive legal case. For that reason he would love to hear from a legal expert somewhere who has heard his story and wants to fight for justice for him and all victims of a pension scandal that stretches back to the 1980s. Do get in touch if you can help and I'll gladly pass on your details to Michael.

s.read@independent.co.uk

twitter: @simonnread

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