Offshore pension scams costing savers up to £4 billion a year are set to become the next big financial scandal, claims a former minister.
A well-known TV celebrity is reportedly one of thousands of retirement savers duped into handing over their lifetime savings by con-men.
The TV star was persuaded to invest around £1 million into an offshore pension scheme which is feared to have collapsed.
Pension reforms put in place by former Chancellor George Osborne are blamed for some of the mess.
The reforms allow anyone over the age of 55 years old to take some or all their pension savings.
Many people are lured to reinvest the cash in high-risk offshore schemes like hardwood plantations, resorts and hotels or green energy projects.
The salesmen promise higher than average returns, but once the money is transferred offshore, the crooks and the cash disappear.
Baroness Altmann, a former pensions minister, told The Times: “Pension scams have the potential to be the next big financial scandal.
“Regulators have failed to respond with adequate urgency and are leaving consumers at the mercy of fraudsters. The fallout risks putting younger people off pensions altogether.”
Consumer watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority has an online tool helping investors to identify likely scams.
Scam warning signs
“If you’re contacted out of the blue about an investment opportunity, chances are it’s a high-risk investment or a scam,” says the FCA.
“Scammers usually cold-call but contact can also come by email, post, word of mouth or at a seminar or exhibition. Scams are often advertised online too.
“If you get cold-called, the safest thing to do is to hang up. If you get unexpected offers by email or text, it’s best to simply ignore them.”
Warning signs of a scam include bonus or discount offers to invest within a short time limit and the offer of better returns than offered elsewhere.
More than 20 popular scams are listed on the FCA ScamSmart web site.
The FCA recommends checking out the adviser’s credentials with the financial services register, rather than believing mocked-up web sites, brochures and testimonials which look convincing but are really part of an elaborate fraud.