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Highly educated savers more likely to fall for pension scams

Savers educated to degree level could be more at risk of falling for a pension scam. Photo: Christian Langballe/Unsplash

Victims of pensions scams could lose 22 years’ worth of savings in just 24 hours, with university-educated savers most likely to be fooled, a survey by regulators suggests.

Analysis by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and The Pensions Regulator (TPR) as part of their joint ScamSmart campaign found it could take 22 years for Brits to build a pension pot of £82,000 – the average amount victims lost to scams in 2018.

But savers could be at risk of losing this amount in a day or less. In a survey carried out by the regulators, almost a quarter (24%) of people admitted to taking 24 hours or less to decide on a pension offer.

READ MORE: Tax scam warning for students

And it’s the most highly-educated savers who are most at risk of falling for scams. Brits with university degrees are 40% more likely to accept a free pension review from a company they’ve not dealt with before, and 21% more likely to take up the offer of early access to their pension pot – both common scam tactics, according to The Pensions Regulator.

The regulator warned that overconfidence may lead to savers missing the signs of a scam. Despite nearly two thirds (63%) saying they are confident to make a decision about their pension, the same proportion (63%) would trust someone offering pensions advice out of the blue – one of the main warning signs of a scam.

“Scammers employ clever techniques, such as seeking to establish ‘social similarity’ by faking empathy and a friendly rapport with their victims.They can win your trust in a short space of time and by engaging with them you leave yourself vulnerable to losing a lot of money very quickly,” Honey Langcaster-James, a psychologist, explained.

READ MORE: £616m stolen in scams from UK bank accounts in six months

Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, said: “We know many people have big plans for their retirement, whether it’s seeing new places, learning new skills or helping their families out financially. Pension scammers destroy those dreams, often forever.

“Reject unsolicited approaches offering ‘help’ with your pension and get advice from an FCA authorised firm before making big changes to your pension fund. Make sure your lifetime savings stay yours,” he advised.

The regulators recommended four simple steps savers should follow to protect themselves from pension scams.

Protect yourself from pension scams

  1. Reject unexpected pension offers whether made online, on social media or over the phone.

  2. Check who you’re dealing with before changing your pension arrangements – check the FCA Register or call the FCA helpline on 0800 111 6768 to see if the firm you are dealing with is authorised by the FCA.

  3. Don’t be rushed or pressured into making any decision about your pension.

  4. Consider getting impartial information and advice.