Fraudsters ready for a pension payday

The new freedoms will make it easier to part people from their cash

AREP2G Money

It's just days until retirees can exercise new freedoms and get their hands on their pension cash, but they're not the only ones excited by the prospect of all that money coming into circulation.

Scammers are already sniffing out ways to part you from your pension and experts are worried that fraud poses the biggest threat to the new freedoms.

Pre-freedom the biggest scam the pensions industry had to fight was pension liberation, where those aged under 55 were encouraged to transfer their savings to rogue schemes who left them with huge tax bills, invested their money is rubbish investments for high fees, or in the worst cases ran off with the liberated money.

Operating a pension liberation scheme took hard work, including convincing HMRC to register the scheme, avoiding upsetting the regulator and convincing pension providers to transfer the cash. Pension liberation is a very sophisticated con.

Because of the sophisticated nature of it, for individuals being scammed, pension providers were often the last line of defence stopping them losing their hard earned savings.

Liberation will no doubt exist after pension freedom is introduced because those under age 55 will still want to get their money out. However, fraudsters have basically been handed an open invitation to target over 55s.

Payday for fraudsters

Why go to the bother of dodging the taxman, regulator and pension providers when you can go straight to individuals, encourage them to get their money out and invest it your 'once-in-a-lifetime' opportunity? And it will often be too tempting for retirees to hand that money over, and they'll have no one to stop them.

Retirees won't have the pension providers covering their backs, discouraging them from transferring into dodgy schemes - if someone aged over 55 request their pension cash it has to be handed over, no questions asked.

For financial fraudsters, pension freedom is a huge payday. There will be between 300,000 and 400,000 people turning 55 every year, if just 1% of them are scammed it will be a tragedy.

The truth is that giving people access to their money is a disaster waiting to happen. The regulator is trying to make people aware of the risks with its 'scam smart' campaign but it's going to be too little too late for those already being groomed by investment scams and put their life savings into Brazilian rainforest or Cuban condos.

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