Pension scams still a major concern for elderly expats

Published:  8 Aug at 6 PM
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A new report reveals some five million older Britons have been approached by pension scammers, with one in every six handing over money.

The shocking report, based on a survey issued by AgeUK, refers to UK-resident victims of fraudulent IFAs and so-called pension advisors, but its findings are equally relevant for UK expats living outside Britain. For almost two decades, stories of huge losses caused by mis-selling or deliberate financial fraud have surfaced wherever there’s a sizeable UK expat community. The culprits use the same modus operandum wherever they’re based, with everything from deliberate misrepresentation of costs to pushing Ponzi schemes such as the now infamous LMIM scandal.

In the UK, some 40 per cent of the elderly have been targeted by crooks, in spite of regular warnings from Britain’s Financial Conduct Agency. With one in four single pensioners responding to cold calls and possible cons and one in six actually handing over their savings, it’s no surprise that age is a factor in the success of fraudsters’ pitches to their victims. Married people, according to the survey, have a much lower rate of getting involved.

Few of those caught in the scams are prepared to give the full details of how they were stripped of their savings, with embarrassment cited as the main reason. If reports were made at all, family and friends were the recipients rather than authorities including the police. Pension scams linked to the right to access pensions pots from the age of 55 are the most common and are still increasing. Age UK is urging the elderly to ignore cold callers, letters and emails offering investment advice as well as those offering refunds or unexpected lottery wins.

Expat pensioners living overseas now have another problem caused by the fall in sterling. A new report states the fall in the value of the pound against a basket of currencies is unlikely to improve for some years. Set against stronger currencies in Europe and the USA, a static low rate will continue to affect those whose pensions are paid in the UK’s currency. Brexit is expected to put the pound under even more pressure, causing yet more grief for expats, although international investors will be able to ring-fence their exposure to UK holdings.
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