The Kirklees Citizens Advice column with Nick Whittingham

ADVICE: Never be forced into making a quick decision on pensions.
ADVICE: Never be forced into making a quick decision on pensions.

Kirklees Citizens Advice and Law Centre wants you to understand your rights and to avoid pension scams.

Recent changes in legislation have made it easier for people to withdraw money from their pensions.

If you are 55 or over you can withdraw lump sums from your pension schemes and 25% of this is tax free.

This is good news for people as it allows you to choose what you do with your money but unfortunately an increasing number of people are being targeted by pension scammers and are losing some or all of their pension pots.

We advise anyone over the age of 50 to take advantage of one of our free Pension Wise interviews.

Pension Wise is a free and impartial government service about your defined contribution pension options.

Our Pension Wise service covers Kirklees, Wakefield and Calderdale. We can see clients at offices in Dewsbury, Huddersfield, Wakefield and Halifax.

You can find out what you can do with your pension pot, how to shop around and what to look out for with regards to taxes and fees.

We explain how to avoid pension scams and the importance of taking your time to make sure your money lasts as long as you do.

We will talk about your pension options and what you can do next.

Appointments usually last around 45 minutes and after your appointment you will be sent a summary of your details and the next steps you need to take.

Here are some top tips on avoiding a pension scams:

l Avoid unsolicited approaches by phone call, text message, email or in person especially where the firm doesn’t allow you to call them back or if their contact details are only a mobile phone number or a PO Box address.

If you want financial advice see a professional adviser who is registered by the Financial Conduct Authority (www.register.fca.org.uk)

l Never be forced into making a quick decision, be pressured into doing so, or be encouraged to transfer your pension quickly and send documents by courier.

Never believe anyone who claims that they can help you or a relative unlock a pension before the age of 55, sometimes known as ‘pension liberation’ or ‘pension loans’.

Only in very rare case, such as very poor health, is this possible.

If you do go ahead with this you may face a tax bill of 55%.

l Don’t be tempted by high rates of return on your investment or claims that it is low risk. You could lose your entire pension by investing in schemes that make this sort of promise.

Get professional advice before withdrawing money from your pension to invest, however attractive the scheme looks.

l If you think that you have been scammed contact your pension company quickly as they may be able to stop any payments.

In the first five months of 2017 over £5 million was lost by people who were tricked into parting with their pension savings.

Please be aware and make sure that you don’t become one of them.