Sin Bin: Aegon finds 80 per cent of pensions transfer requests are attempted fraud

SinBinEdinburgh-based insurance firm Aegon UK has revealed that four fifths of requests it receives for overseas pension transfers are in fact scams aimed at defrauding savers out of their pension.

Since the start of the year the insurer says it has prevented the fraudulent transfer of around 80 per cent of transfers to Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS), which customers had unwittingly authorised.

While QROPS can be perfectly legitimate where a UK resident wants to emigrate and take their pensions savings with them, they are increasingly being marketed by unregulated companies to transfer someone’s pension overseas, while taking a cut to cover administration fees.

A QROPS is an overseas pension scheme that meets the conditions allowing it to receive transfers from UK registered pension schemes.

The fraudsters have typically been targeting smaller pensions of around £30k, promising to carry out a pension review, but their intention is to transfer the money overseas. Once it’s out of the country it’s possible the victim will lose their entire pensions savings. If it is not lost forever they may face a tax bill of up to 55 per cent and other additional fees when the pension pot is repatriated.

Aegon has a number of safety measures in place to investigate overseas transfers, but is calling on pension savers, pension schemes and providers to be vigilant.

Kate Smith, Regulatory Strategy Manager at Aegon UK, said: “The new pension freedoms have given people far greater choice about how they access their pension, but unfortunately this has opened the door for scammers.

“Fraudsters are not only plausible but are also highly persuasive and it can be all too easy to fall for their polished performance, unless you are on your guard. We’re seeing more and more sophisticated ways of unscrupulous people getting their hands on people’s retirement savings and it’s not just the over 55s who are being preyed on, younger customers are being targeted too.

“We’re determined to protect our customers and crack down on the growing cases of fraudulent activity, but we need customers to be more aware and ever vigilant. Before signing any paperwork, it’s vital to question whether you fully understand what you’re signing for and bear in mind it might not be what you’ve been led to believe. If in doubt don’t sign.”