It was first announced in 2016, dropped ahead of a general election, and delayed for further consultation - but finally, a ban on pension cold-calling is in force.

As of 9 January 2019 , all unsolicited calls about pensions are now illegal, and companies breaking the rules could face fines of up to £500,000.

The only exceptions are cases where the caller is FCA-authorised, a trustee or manager of an occupational pension, or if you consent to the calls or have an existing relationship with the caller.

Cold-calling is a common tactic used by scammers to commit pensions fraud, with an estimated 8 scam calls being made every second - or 250 million a year.

Separate research by the FCA suggests victims of pension scams have lost an average of £91,000 each. This money is usually either invested in unusual and high-risk investments, or simply stolen.

The ban is expected to discourage some cold-calling activity, but fraudsters may ignore it or find ways to get around the rules - so it's important to remain alert to potential scams.

Anyone receiving a cold call about their pension has been advised to gather any information they can, such as the company name and phone number, and report it to the Information Commissioner's Office.

Pension cold calls are just one type of scam to be aware of, and criminals may also attempt to use texts, emails and social media messages.

Here's an overview of some other common scams and how to spot them.

HMRC scams and other examples

Now we're nearing the end of self-assessment season, phishing scams claiming to come from HMRC are becoming ever more prevalent.

These might say you're due a tax rebate and need to fill in your details, or they might take a more threatening route and say HMRC will file a lawsuit against you if you don't provide the money or information they demand.

Other commonly reported HMRC scams include emails about fake customs charges, and fraudulent tax forms sent to landlords living outside the UK.

HMRC says it will never use emails, texts or social media to notify you about a rebate or ask for personal information.

If you're unsure or suspicious of a message you receive, you can report it to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk - or ask us about any correspondence from HMRC.

Other scammers may pose as your bank or building society, as an online seller, an investment provider, or another authoritative figure.

Tips for spotting a scam

The more sophisticated the scam is, the harder it will be to spot - but there are a few signs to be aware of. Here are three things to look out for:

  1. The call or message is unexpected. If someone contacts you out of the blue to question you about your personal information or offer you an investment opportunity, it's likely they're not a trustworthy caller.
  2. Their offer sounds too good to be true. Scams often succeed because they offer something appealing to the victim, but this is often an unrealistic promise - or one that comes with a high level of risk.
  3. They put pressure on you to respond quickly. Whether it's a limited-time offer or a warning that you should "act immediately", this is a tactic used to persuade you to act before you have time to think properly about what you're agreeing to.

As a general rule, it's best to get in touch directly with the organisation concerned, through contact details you know to be correct, to ask about the correspondence.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of a scam, get in touch with Action Fraud.

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