Scamwatch: pension tax fraud

Jess Bown
senior man comforting beautiful ...
senior man comforting beautiful ...

Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.

This week, we take a closer look at a cruel pension scam that has already led to four suicides.

How does it work?
There have been lots of warnings about pension fraudsters targeting savers under the new regime giving people much more freedom to decide what to do with their retirement funds.

Pension fraud is not a new thing, though. Several years ago now, hundreds of investors put money into two schemes - run by trustees Ark and Capita Oak - that assured them they could access their pension funds before they were 55 without having to pay tax because of a legal loophole.

Now, those people are liable to pay a 55% tax charge on the money they took out - leaving many with six-figure bills.

Campaign Group Pension Life says that 700 people were caught up in the two schemes, which collected an incredible £37 million of savers' money, and that four of those who lost out have taken their own lives.

How can I avoid being caught out?
One of the biggest indicators that the two schemes described above were scams was that the benefits they promised - annual returns of 8% plus the tax break - were too good to be true.

That's why, if you are approached about a pension opportunity that seems highly beneficial, it is always worth talking to an adviser not associated with the deal to get some unbiased advice before going ahead.

The Pensions Regulator's advice to potential pension fraud victims also includes never giving out personal or financial information to a cold caller, checking that a company is authorised by the FCA and asking for a statement showing how your pension will be paid should you invest.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?
If you think you have fallen victim to pension fraud, call The Pensions Advisory Service on 0300 123 1047.

You can also report the scam to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

Depending on the circumstances, the Pensions Ombudsman may be able to take on your case, although it is unlikely to be able to recoup your cash from a fraudulent firm.

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