Hundreds of Scottish retirement savers have handed their pension pots over to criminal gangs who placed investment invitations in newspaper adverts.
Police believe organised crime gangs are behind the sting which has netted millions of pounds and that the true extent of the fraud will remain undiscovered for a decade until savers try to access their pensions and find they were stolen.
Detectives are investigating complaints from more than 300 retirement savers who saw the adverts claiming investors could make better returns than with their current pension scheme if they switched providers.
These savers quickly realised crooks had swindled them out of their money.
Organised crime gangs
The crime gangs are targeting over 55s who can withdraw their pension cash to spend how they like under flexible access rules introduced by the government in April 2015.
Police believe that crooks are turning away from traditional organised rackets, such as prostitution, drugs and gun running to steal pension pots because the cash is easier pickings.
“Knowledge of the community is key here,” said a police spokesman. “These people take advantage of retirement and redundancy by offering people who need money and can access their pensions for large lump sums.
“In many cases, all they have to do is put an advert in a newspaper or whisper rumours of investment opportunities around a pub and greed takes over as the victims try to make more of the money they have.”
Police plea to savers
Most of the scammed pension transfer victims live in West Scotland, which police believe indicates the fraud is carried out by local criminals.
“These people may look like educated professionals and many have university degrees, but they are still working as gangsters exploiting weaknesses in the system at a time when people are at a low ebb because their employer has gone to the wall or when they want to grow their wealth,” said the police spokesman.
The spokesman urged anyone who has responded to an advert or word-of-mouth investment opportunity involving transferring their pension fund to contact their local police station.
“Judging by the number of people involved already, there must be many more people who have handed these crooks their life savings and will never see the money again,” said the spokesman.