(Note: so far this news story has a UK focus. But beware; these pesky scammers will try to find a way to target you guys in the USA; in fact wherever you live!)

Financial scares, scams etc are never far from the news. Here’s the latest one, which I only heard about an hour ago on BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme. It concerns pensions.

It turns out people are being targeted with phone calls and text messages asking if you’d like to ‘unlock’ (or maybe ‘liberate’) your pension. They say they can show you a way.

I stress that this doesn’t apply to the state pension but to others, such as company, occupational, private pensions etc, where the funds are normally locked up until you’re 55 or older, depending on how the scheme was set up.

Now in very exceptional circumstances, e.g. life-threatening illness, it can be advisable to find (legal) ways to get access to these funds earlier.

But the scammers are calculating that many people will be tempted simply because they are short of money. They swap the funds, then invest them, often in questionable schemes, often in places where the regulators can’t touch them. But that happens AFTER deducting charges and fees, which the UK’s pensions regulator described as nothing short of theft. According to the Radio 4 programme, these deductions and taxes can reduce the value of the fund by up to 50%; and what’s left could be in risky investments.

Some of the schemes promise that no tax is payable, but the UK’s FSA (Financial Services Authority) says: Anyone who accesses money from their pension, either via a loan or other ways outside of the normal allowed methods, runs the risk of having to pay unauthorised payments charges. These can be up to 70% of the value of the loan.”

It’s the old story of “caveat emptor”, or in other words: “if something seems too good to be true, it generally is.”

… and finally: if you’re very short of funds and are tempted by one of these approaches, then consult one of the independent financial advice charities for advice; on how to find other ways to solve your problem. You’ll find a list of these organisations in the “Resources” section of my book “Back to the Black”, available from Amazon.


Here’s an audio link to the BBC story: to listen, scroll to 2hrs:46mins:30secs. (The clip is only 3 ½  minutes long) http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01qhqrq

Here are some links to official advice sites, if you get one of these approaches.

The UK’s Financial Services Authority (FSA):


The UK’s Pensions Regulator: http://www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk/regulate-and-enforce/pension-liberation.aspx

The Money Advice Service: https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/pension-release-or-pension-unlocking

… and if you want to report a doubtful approach you’ve had, go to http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/news?page=4


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