On her retirement, Janet Howland* searched online for suitable investments for her pension pot. Days after her internet search, she was telephoned by a company calling itself Saga Investments and offering a five-year fixed-rate bond at 3.2%. It was only after she had transferred £70,000 that she discovered it was a scam.
Investment and pension fraud has soared since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Reports of scams that clone the details of genuine companies regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) were up by 29% during the first month of lockdown and, in 2020, victims lost an average of £45,242 each to criminals imitating trusted brands such as Aviva and Allianz, according to Action Fraud. The real figure is thought to be far higher, since surveys suggest that half of those targeted fail to report what has happened.
The financial impact of the pandemic is likely to make more people vulnerable to these scams, which promise attractive returns on diminished savings.
Many of the victims, like Howland, are older people at or approaching retirement age. Since 2015, over-55s have been able to access their pension pot. As a result, this age group has been increasingly targeted by financially savvy criminal gangs who use sophisticated tactics to trap their victims.
Howland was sent a series of professional-looking emails from what appeared to be a Saga email address, bearing the Saga logo and a link to its genuine website.
They stated that the investment schemes in…