Pension companies aren’t allowed to cold call anyone about a pension unless they are already a customer. If they do, they could be fined up to £500,000.
Pensions cold calling became a huge problem when pension freedoms were introduced in April 2015. Thousands of people have been fleeced out of their pension savings by fraudsters who’ve persuaded them to move their pension.
In many cases, they’ve been targeted by firms that cold call them, which led to a ban on pension cold calls on 9 January, 2019. This means that it’s against the law for a company to cold call anyone about their pension unless:
- They are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or run a workplace or personal pension scheme, and
- You’ve agreed to be called or you’re already a customer of the firm or you have a pension with the company in question.
What to do if you get a pensions cold call
If you receive a cold call about pensions, the most important thing is not to act on what you’re told. The straightforward advice is to put the phone down. If you feel like it, you can try and get information about the company making the call so you can report them to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
You can do this by ringing the ICO on 0303 123 1133, or you can report the cold call via their website here.
What the ban doesn’t cover
The ban only covers cold calls. It doesn’t cover emails, texts, WhatsApp or contact via social media.
When the government originally announced that it was going to introduce a ban (in the summer of 2017), it didn’t include texts or emails in its plans. After it was lobbied by the pensions industry, it decided to include them. However, during the consultation period, the government decided against including emails, texts and social media. It says these are already covered by other legislation.
Will it stop cold calls?
The measure to ban pension cold calls won’t stop them. Many of the people who make pension cold calls are criminals – so making something illegal won’t be a deterrent. However, it’s important to understand that anyone who cold calls you about your pension is doing so illegally.
Companies that text or email you about your pension
If you get a text, social media message or an email, ignore it and delete it. You should report it to the Information Commissioner’s Office (details as above).
The GDPR (data protection) regulations which came into force in May 2018 make it illegal for companies to contact you without your permission anyway. There are also strict rules about how they acquire your details.
If you’re contacted about transferring your pension
Transferring your pension is a serious step. There may be some good reasons for doing this, but it isn’t something you should do without taking advice and without a long and hard think about what you’re giving up and the costs of transferring. If you’re thinking of transferring a final salary pension, in most cases it’s not a good idea.
Be very wary of anyone who promises you a better return if you transfer your pension. Returns are very hard to predict and certainly aren’t guaranteed. Find out more about the pros and cons of transferring your pensions here.
If you’re not sure what to do, get help from the Single Financial Guidance Body, which incorporates Pension Wise, the Pensions Advisory Service and the Money Advice Service.
If you suspect a scam having agreed to transfer your pension, contact your pension provider immediately and ask if they can stop the transfer.
If you think you’re too late and you’ve already been caught out by a pension scam, contact Action Fraud either online or by calling 0300 123 2040. Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud where you should report if you have been scammed, defrauded or experienced cyber-crime.
Find out more about pension scams and how to protect yourself here.