Possible delay in supplying transfer value quotes
Please note that due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) we are adapting working patterns to ensure we continue to provide a full service whilst monitoring the latest Government advice to protect our staff. In accordance with guidance from the Pensions Regulator, we’re prioritising paying pensions and processing death benefits. So it may take longer than normal to deal with other work such as transfers, but we will of course continue to comply with statutory timescales.
Please do not contact us to chase cases on a weekly basis as dealing with these calls will take up valuable resources that could be used to process cases. To ensure members are treated fairly we will be working through the requests in strict order of date received.
Please also note that pressure to carry out a transfer as quickly as possible is one of the warning signs of a pension scam, that the Pensions Regulator advises administrators to watch out for. So, continually chasing us to provide details for a particular case could raise concerns, resulting in further checks having to be made before a transfer can ultimately be paid.
Can I transfer my pension rights to another pension scheme?
A transfer can be paid to either:
- a UK HM Revenue & Customs registered pension scheme, or
- a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS)
You can ask your new pension scheme/provider to request transfer details from us. Or you can contact us directly.
But – to be entitled to a transfer – you must:
- Have at least 3 months membership (unless you left the scheme between 1 April 2008 and 31 March 2014)
- Not be retiring from the scheme on grounds of redundancy, business efficiency or ill-health
- For a transfer to a ‘Club Scheme’*
- Leave the scheme and elect for a transfer before your normal pension age (NPA)
- For a transfer to any other scheme:
- Leave the scheme and elect for a transfer at least 1 year before your (NPA)
- Not already be in receipt of a LGPS pension (England & Wales only) or have previously retired on Tier 3 ill health grounds
- Not be an active member of the LGPS in any job (England & Wales only)
*Schemes that operate the Public Sector Transfer Arrangements
You should think carefully before deciding to go ahead with a transfer
Your deferred benefits are valuable benefits that keep pace with the cost of living both before and after you start drawing your pension. And they include generous death benefits for your dependants.
You should compare these benefits to the benefits a transfer would provide for you before making any decision to transfer. The Money Advice Service gives clear unbiased advice and information about all sorts of financial matters. You may find some useful information about transferring pension rights at www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk (external link)
Taking financial advice, whilst important in being able to assess all your options, can be very daunting and expensive. In recognition of this a Guide to Good Practice for financial advisers has been created by the Personal Finance Society. We strongly suggest you read this to help you better understand what good advice looks like. You can find this by visiting their website at: https://thepfs.org/about-us/initiatives/the-pension-transfer-gold-standard/understanding-the-pension-transfer-gold-standard/
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have published a video to help members better understand financial advice on transferring out of a defined benefit pension scheme like the LGPS. You can view the video here: https://www.fca.org.uk/news/news-stories/fca-publishes-video-help-consumers-understand-pension-transfer-advice. They’ve also put together some information to help members considering transferring out understand the value of the benefits they would be giving up. You can read this here: https://www.fca.org.uk/consumers/pension-transfer-defined-benefit
Some questions members often ask before they choose a financial adviser are:
- Do you have permissions from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to give me advice on whether I should transfer my safeguarded pension rights?
- Are you only going to be able to recommend a restricted selection of alternative choices or can you recommend any suitable product?
- Do you or your business have your own products or funds which you may recommend to me? If you do, how much money do I pay if you recommend those funds and products, in addition to the fees I might pay for advice or for your services?
- What are you going to charge me for the advice you will provide?
- If you are not going to charge me, unless you recommend a transfer, how can you prove this will not influence your advice?
You can find authorised independent financial advisers by searching the FCA register at: https://register.fca.org.uk or contacting the Citizens Advice Bureau. You should check to see whether an adviser carries the Gold Standard Mark.
Freedom & choice
Changes to Defined Contribution Schemes
In the 2014 budget the Government announced reforms to defined contribution schemes, like personal pensions. These reforms are effective from 6 April 2015 and give members of such schemes, aged 55 or over, greater flexibility over how they can access their pension savings. However, even under the new flexibilities, HMRC rules require that anything above 25% of pension savings will be taxable as pension income at a member’s marginal rate.
To help people understand their retirement choices from schemes offering the new flexibilities, the government has introduced a free and impartial service called Pension Wise
Transfers from the LGPS to Defined Contribution Schemes
The LGPS isn’t a Defined Contribution Scheme so the new flexibilities don’t apply to it. But there are indirect changes for LGPS members considering transferring to such a scheme. For details – refer to this Q & Afor LGPS members.
Additional Voluntary Contributions (AVCs)
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) are currently considering how the changes will impact on LGPS in-house AVC plans.
Pension Scams – Don’t let a scammer enjoy your retirement!
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and The Pensions Regulator (TPR) are part of Project Bloom – a multi-agency taskforce which is working to combat pension scams. The taskforce includes the Department for Work and Pensions, HM Treasury, the Serious Fraud Office, City of London Police, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, The Pensions Advisory Service and the National Crime Agency.
In August 2018 the FCA and TPR joined forces to launch a new joint ScamSmart pension scams campaign.
Find out how pension scams work, how to avoid them and what to do if you suspect a scam
Pension scams can be hard to spot. Scammers can be articulate and financially knowledgeable, with credible websites, testimonials and materials that are hard to distinguish from the real thing.
How pension scams work
Scammers usually contact people out of the blue via phone, email or text, or even advertise online. Scammers will make false claims to gain your trust. For example:
- Claiming they are authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) or that they don’t have to be FCA authorised because they aren’t providing the advice themselves.
- Claiming to be acting on the behalf of the FCA, TPA or the government service Pension Wise.
Legislation to ban pensions cold-calling came into force on 09/01/2019, meaning that companies making unsolicited phone calls to people about their pensions face enforcement action, including fines of up to £500,000. The regulations prohibit cold-calling in relation to pensions, save for circumstances in which the caller is authorised by the FCA, or is the trustee or manager of an occupational or personal pension scheme, and when the individual being contacted consents to the calls, or has an existing relationship with the caller.
Scammers design attractive offers to persuade you to transfer your pension pot to them (or to release funds from it). It is often then invested in unusual and high-risk investments like overseas property, renewable energy bonds, forestry, storage units, or simply stolen outright.
Scam offers often include:
- Free pension reviews
- Higher returns - guarantees they can get you better returns on your pension savings
- Help to release cash from your pension, even though you’re under 55 (an offer to release funds before age 55 is highly likely to be a scam, as it’s normally only in rare circumstances, such as serious ill health, that this is allowed).
- The option to take more than 25% of your pension savings as ‘tax free’ cash. HMRC rules require that all pension savings above 25% are taxable as pension income at a member’s marginal rate, even if they are taken as a lump sum.
- High pressure sales tactics - the scammers may try to pressure you with ‘time limited offers’ or even send a courier to your door to wait while you sign documents.
- Unusual investments - which tend to be unregulated and high risk, and may be difficult to sell if you need access to your money.
- Complicated structures where it isn’t clear where your money will end up
- Long-term pension investments – which mean it could be several years before you realise something is wrong.
4 simple steps to protect yourself from pension scams
Step 1 - Reject unexpected offers
If you’re contacted out of the blue about a pension opportunity, chances are it’s high risk or a scam. If you get a cold call about your pension, the safest thing to do is to hang up. If you get unsolicited offers via email or text you should simply ignore them. Fortunately, most people do reject unsolicited offers – FCA research suggests that 95% of unexpected pension offers are rejected.
Be wary of offers of free pension reviews. Professional advice on pensions is not free – a free offer out of the blue from a company you have not dealt with before is probably a scam.
And don’t be talked into something by someone you know. They could be getting scammed, so check everything yourself.
Step 2 - Check who you’re dealing with
- Check the FCA Register - Make sure that anyone offering you advice or other financial services is FCA authorised. If you don’t use an FCA-authorised firm, you also won’t have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service or Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) so you’re unlikely to get your money back if things go wrong. If the firm is the Register, call the FCA Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768 to check the firm is permitted to give pension advice.
- Check they are not a clone - A common scam is to pretend to be a genuine FCA authorised firm (called a ‘clone firm’). Always use the contact details on the Register, not the details the firm gives you.
Step 3 - Don’t be rushed or pressured
Take your time to make all the checks you need – even if this means turning down an ‘amazing deal’. Be wary of promised returns that sound too good to be true and don’t be rushed or pressured into making a decision.
Step 4 - Get impartial information or advice
You should seriously consider seeking financial guidance or advice before changing your pension arrangements.
- Pensions Advisory Service - provide free independent and impartial information and guidance.
- Pension Wise - If you’re over 50 and have a defined contribution pension, Pension Wise offers pre-booked appointments to talk through your retirement options.
- Financial advisers - It’s important you make the best decision for your own personal circumstances so you should seriously consider using the services of a financial adviser. If you do opt for an adviser, be sure to use an adviser that is regulated by the FCA and never take advice from the company that contacted you or from someone they recommend, as this may be part of the scam.
If you suspect a scam, report it
- Report to the FCA - You can report an unauthorised firm or scam to us by contacting our Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768 or using our reporting form.
- Report to Action Fraud - If you suspect a scam you should report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or at www.actionfraud.police.uk.
- If you've agreed to transfer your pension and now suspect a scam, contact your pension provider straight away. They may be able to stop a transfer that hasn't taken place yet. If you are unsure of what to do contact The Pensions Advisory Service for help on 0800 011 3797.
If you are taken in by a pension scam and agree to transfer, you will probably lose most, if not all, of your pension savings. You could also receive tax charges of up to 55% of the value of your pension for taking what is classed as an ‘unauthorised payment’ for tax purposes.
If you do receive an ‘unauthorised payment’, you must declare it to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). If you fail to declare an unauthorised payment to HMRC, you may be charged penalties in addition to the tax.
Be ScamSmart with your pension
To find out more, visit www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart where you can view pension scam resources including an infographic and TV and radio ads.
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) and The Pensions Regulator (TPR) have warned savers against the rising threat of pension scams amid the current coronavirus crisis.
They have urged savers not to rush decisions about their pension, pointing consumers to the support services in place, such as the Pensions Advisory Service, Pension Wise and ScamSmart.
The regulators have issued the following joint statement to raise awareness of pension scams, highlighting that the rising levels of vulnerability stemming from COVID-19 lockdown are likely to be targeted by scammers.
Pension scams could increase during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak
Watch out for scams related to coronavirus (COVID-19). These scams take many forms and could be about insurance policies, pensions transfers, or high-return investment opportunities, including investments in crypto assets.
Scammers are sophisticated, opportunistic and will try many things. They’re also very likely to target the vulnerable. Beware of investments that appear to be too good be true.
To help protect yourself you should:
- reject offers that come out of the blue
- beware of adverts on social media channels and paid for/sponsored adverts online
- use the Financial Services Register and Warning List to check who you’re dealing with.
- do not click links or open emails from senders you don't already know
- avoid being rushed or pressured into making a decision
- if a firm calls you unexpectedly, use the contact details on the Register to check that you’re dealing with the genuine firm
- not give out personal details (bank details, address, existing insurance/pensions/investment details).
If you suspect a scam, call Action Fraud straight away on 0300 123 2040.
TPR, the FCA and TPAS have also jointly prepared this letter to warn members that transferring from a defined benefit (DB) scheme like the LGPS to a defined contribution (DC) scheme during the COVID-19 crisis is unlikely to be in their best long term interests. This letter warns members not to make rash decisions during the pandemic and urges them to think very carefully before making any transfer decisions at this time. It contains important information on points members should consider before making a decision and where they should go for impartial advice.
Please note that any references to the Pension Protection Fund in this letter don’t apply to the LGPS. However, as the LGPS is a public sector pension scheme it’s benefits are guaranteed by law.