pension

How to navigate pension scams

by Madaline Dunn

Pension scams are on the rise. According to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), over £2 million has been lost to pension scammers in the last year, with victims, on average, losing out on £50,949. This number is double what it was in 2020. That said, small pots and big pots are being targeted, with victims being conned out of £1,000 to £500,000.

Of course, it’s incredibly worrying that such a nefarious scam has seen such an increase. Savers work hard their whole lives to make sure that they’re set for their golden days.

In response to this concerning trend, the government recently announced anti-pension scam plans to safeguard savers.

At The Salary Calculator, we’ll walk you through what the government’s Fraud Action Plan is, what it means for you and some steps you can take to protect yourself from pension scams.

This article will explain:

  • Latest statistics from the FCA
  • What the Fraud Action Plan contains
  • Tips to protect yourself against fraud

A warning from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)

According to the FCA, pension scams have become increasingly common due to the pension freedoms introduced in 2015. This gave people much more flexibility around their investments; however, this flexibility also brought with it risk.

Now, the FCA says that pension holders were nine times more likely to accept pension advice from someone online than someone in person. Savers were also five times more likely to be attracted to a free online pension review by a stranger than one offered by a stranger in the pub. Worryingly, out of those surveyed, 28% were aware that this kind of offer was typically the sign of a scam.

As a result, Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, suggests that pension holders should challenge themselves and “flip the context”. “Imagine a stranger in a pub offering free pension advice and then telling you to put those savings into something they were selling. It is difficult imagining anyone saying yes to that,” he said.

According to Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell, men aged 55 and over “who can access their retirement pot flexibly” are one of the main targets for this kind of scam. Of course, the current climate caused by Coronavirus has made people more vulnerable to pension scams too.

The Fraud Action Plan

The UK government recently admitted that it needs to do more to protect people from pension scams. So, it will soon publish its Fraud Action Plan 2022-2025, which will seek to bolster consumer protections by eliminating fraudulent infrastructure.

Reportedly, more emphasis will be placed on tackling ‘secondary scammers’ who go after those who have already been scammed, and the government will also pursue greater gathering and sharing of data relating to pension scams.

Tips to protect yourself

While you may think that you’re too savvy to be at risk of a pension scam, scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated with the tactics they use to trap victims.

The FCA has warned that overconfidence on the part of consumers puts people at risk. So, it’s always best to make sure that you take some steps to safeguard yourself.

Look out for red flags – As outlined above, those offering free reviews are unlikely to be legitimate advisors, equally those who promise you ‘high returns’ are likely to be pulling a fast one.

Keep yourself informed – In line with the UK’s pension rules, you typically can’t unlock your pension until you’re 55. So, if you’re promised an early cash release, it’s likely that this is a scam. Get in touch with the Pensions Advisory Service if you have any questions or concerns. Pension Wise is another service that can help you stay in the loop.

Be wary of cold calls – Back in January 2019, the government banned cold calling regarding pensions. So, unless you have given your pension provider prior permission to call you, ignore calls and texts regarding your pension because those who get in touch are likely to be scammers.

Take your time – Those who pile on the pressure or give you a limited time offer will likely be scammers. It’s important to take the time to research a provider to make sure everything is above board. Always check the Financial Services Register before making a decision.

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Monday, August 23rd, 2021 Pensions No Comments

None of the content on this website, including blog posts, comments, or responses to user comments, is offered as financial advice. Figures used are for illustrative purposes only.

New tool for those thinking of retiring

by Admin

If you are thinking of retiring soon, you might be wondering what kind of effect taking your pension would have on your take-home pay. This is not quite as simple as it might sound at first – the deductions from your pension income will not be the same as those on your salary. For example, you might be paying into a pension with some of your salary, which of course you would not do with income from a pension. And National Insurance is not deducted from pension income, whereas it is deducted from your salary if you are below state pension age.

With this in mind, I have combined a few options from the Two Jobs calculator (which shows you the take-home pay if you have two income at once) and put them in the Two Salaries Comparison Calculator (which compares two incomes side-by-side). Now, you can enter different options for the two different incomes you are comparing (e.g. different bonuses or overtime) – and you can also tick a box on the “Additional Options” tab to indicate that one or other of the incomes is a pension. This income will then not have National Insurance deducted from it – so you can enter the details of your employment for the first income and the details of your pension in the second income, tick the box to say the second job is actually a pension, and the calculator will deduct NI only from the first income.

If you are thinking of retiring, or just investigating a new job which would have a different salary and different deductions, try out the Two Salaries Comparison Calculator.

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Receiving a pension AND employment income

by Admin

The Salary Calculator has had the Two Jobs calculator for a little over a year now. I have had a couple of people contact me and say that they haven’t been able to use it for their situation, which is that they are receiving one income as a pension but they have a second income from a job. The pension doesn’t have National Insurance deducted from it but the job does, and it wasn’t possible to reflect this in the calculator. However, this oversight has now been fixed!

On the Two Jobs calculator, the Additional Options tab now has two extra tick-boxes which you can use to indicate that either the first or second job is a pension (or indeed that they are both pensions). The calculator will then not deduct NI from the job that you say is actually a pension. On all other calculators, where you are only dealing with one income, you can just tick the “I do not pay National Insurance” box if this actually a pension.

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New pension options

by Admin

A while ago, I considered adding an option to the calculator allowing you to enter the amount in £ that you contribute each month, rather than the percentage. I thought this would be useful for people whose employers didn’t use their salary as the basis for the pension contributions but instead “pensionable pay” or something similar. I never got round to it because I thought it was too much of a niche and would make the calculator too confusing. However, the current Coronavirus situation with people being put on furlough made me realise that more people would be affected by this than usual, so I have added this option.

I had an email from a visitor to the site who said that his pension contributions in furlough were based on his full salary, not his reduced, furlough pay. As such, the percentage he was entering was giving the wrong deduction when applied to the reduced pay. To combat this, I have now added the option to switch from a percentage input to a £ input. Enter the amount you contribute, choose the pay period, select what kind of pension you have, and then the calculator will use this amount as your pension contribution. To make this even easier, on the Furlough Calculator you can enter the percentage as usual but tick the “Don’t reduce pension” option, in which case the calculator will automatically apply the pension contributions from your full salary to your reduced salary.

People who contribute to a personal pension (i.e., not through their employer) might also find it easier to use the £ amount option, as it may be easier than calculating the percentage.

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Wednesday, May 20th, 2020 About The Salary Calculator, Pensions No Comments

New option – reduced pay

by Admin

With the coronavirus outbreak affecting businesses around the country, a number of employers have had to make the decision to ask staff not to come in to work. The government announced last week that, to encourage employers not to lay staff off, they will pay up to 80% (to a maximum £2,500 per month) of staff members’ salaries if they keep them on the payroll. As well as trying to ensure that employees still receive some pay, the plan is to keep the workers available so the economy is well placed to start up again once the virus threat is reduced.

I have added an option to the existing Pro-Rata Calculator which allows you to enter a percentage of salary instead of reduced hours. Some employers will continue to pay their employees the full amount during the pandemic, others may only be able to pay what they are receiving from the government. And of course, for other reasons you might be receiving a percentage reduction in salary. If this applies to you, enter your full-time salary and full-time hours, then enter the percentage of your salary that you will be receiving. With tax and pension deductions etc taken into account, you might find that the reduction is not quite as bad as you thought. For example, someone on the UK median full-time salary (which is about £30,000) normally takes home £1,915 per month after tax and 5% auto-enrolment pension contributions. On 80% salary, they would take home £1,595, which is a significant drop but still just over 83% of normal. Other deductions like Student Loan repayment could make the overall reduction to a slightly more manageable 85%.

Also of interest might be the new Sick Pay Calculator, which I launched last week to help people who have had to take a short period of time off on reduced pay.

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