A tidal wave of “advice” from fraudsters and scammers is set to hit those with pension funds, a leading UK regulated financial adviser is warning.
Angela South is managing director of Magna Wealth Management Ltd which trades as Expat Pensions in Spain and EU countries.
She said the warning signs were already there.
“The Treasury has already had to force the closure of a website – www.pensionwisechoices.co.uk – over concerns the firm concerned was attempting to pass itself off as the Government’s official Pension Wise guidance service.
“And now research conducted by MetLife reveals that nearly one in ten pensioners has been targeted by scammers during their retirement,” she said.
The reported scams range from attempting to trick older people into revealing their bank details, to selling allegedly suspect investments and pension liberating schemes.
Ms South said: “Independent advice from a regulated financial adviser can help people become better informed and able to see through fraudsters, but you have to ask whether the financial services industry and our regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, have done a good enough job in getting this message across.
“In April, thousands of pensioners will gain unprecedented access to their pension funds under George Osborne’s so-called ‘freedoms’ but my concern is that this has already provided a fertile environment for fraudsters.
“Yes, those over 55-years-old will have choices on how they use their savings from April onwards, but they will also want to factor in issues such as how much tax they pay when take money out of their pensions, and also the need to ensure they have enough money, from whatever source, to fund their retirement for the rest of their lives.
“Suggesting that giving those aged 55 and over full access to their pension savings would encourage them to go out and buy a Lamborghini was a little patronising, but my concern is that nobody is stressing the need for professional advice enough,” she cautioned.
She said she was encouraged by news that HMRC is to tighten regulations for pension scheme administrators from April this year as part of its clampdown on pension scams.
“Fraudsters are nothing if not clever and inventive, and I am sure they will already be plotting their route round the latest regulations.
“Many have very attractive and plausible websites. Many falsely claim to be FCA regulated.
“Many offer ‘guarantees’ but if your sole intention is to get hold of the money and spend it, then what is any ‘guarantee’ worth?” said Ms South.
She said those looking to make the most of their pensions in retirement, or those who have been contacted out of the blue by someone claiming to be a pensions expert, should consider consulting a regulated financial adviser with concrete credentials that they have thoroughly checked out.
“For example, if someone claims to be a regulated financial adviser, there is a simple way to check. Go to http://www.fca.org.uk/register/ and check the Financial Services Register run by the Financial Conduct Authority.”
The Financial Services Register lists financial services firms and individuals in the UK who are authorised by the FCA to do business, are registered to undertake regulated activities, and approved to provide products or services
Ms South said: “If you plan to do business with a firm or individual, use the Financial Services Register to find out if they are allowed to offer the service or product you are interested in.
“This will give you assurance that they are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and are governed by its stringent regulations.”
Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/46495/
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