How to avoid investment and pension scams

Find out how to protect yourself from investment and pension scams, and how to check you’re dealing with an authorised firm.

Scams are increasingly sophisticated. Fraudsters can be articulate and financially knowledgeable, with credible websites, testimonials and materials that are hard to distinguish from the real thing. 

But if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Reject unexpected offers 

If you’re contacted out of the blue about an investment opportunity, chances are it’s a high risk investment or a scam.

​​​​Scammers usually cold-call but contact can also come by email, post, word of mouth or at a seminar or exhibition.

If you get cold-called, the safest thing to do is to hang up. If you get unexpected offers by email or text, it’s best to simply ignore them.

You can register with the Telephone Preference Service and Mailing Preference Service to reduce the number of letters and cold calls you receive. 

Callers may pretend they aren’t cold calling you by referring to a brochure or an email they sent you – that’s why it’s important you know how to spot the other warning signs.

Spot the warning signs 

Fraudsters will often: 

  • apply pressure to invest quickly – they might offer you a bonus or discount if you invest before a set date or say the opportunity is only available for a short period 
  • downplay the risks to your money – they might say you will own actual assets you can sell to make back any losses or use legal jargon to suggest the investment is very safe
  • promise tempting returns that sound too good to be true, such as better interest rates than elsewhere
  • say that they’re only making the offer available to you or even ask you to not tell anyone else about the opportunity

Check if a firm is FCA-authorised 

Almost all financial services firms must be authorised by us – if they’re not, it’s probably a scam.

Check our Financial Services Register to see if a firm or individual is authorised or registered with us.

Always access the Register from our website, rather than through links in emails or on the website of a firm offering you an investment. 

Check if the firm’s ‘firm reference number’ (FRN) and contact details are the same as on our Register.

If there are no contact details on the Register or if the firm claims they’re out of date, call our Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768.

If you’re dealing with an overseas firm, you should check with the regulator in that country and also check the scam warnings from foreign regulators.

If you use an unauthorised firm, you won’t have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service or Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) if things go wrong – and you’re unlikely to get your money back.

Not all investment products are regulated by us (eg wine) – find out more about unregulated investment products

Check the FCA Warning List 

Use the FCA Warning List to check the risks of a potential investment – you can also search to see if the firm is known to be operating without our authorisation. 

Even if a firm isn’t on our list, it may still be a scam – firms change names and details all the time.

Check it’s not a ‘clone firm’

A common scam is to pretend to be a genuine firm (called a ‘clone firm’).

Always use the contact details on our Register, not the details the firm gives you. 

You should also check the firm’s details with directory enquiries or Companies House to make sure they’re the same.

Get impartial advice

Always get independent advice before investing – don’t use an adviser from the firm that contacted you.

You can find financial advisers at unbiased.co.uk and VouchedFor

If you’re looking for a stockbroker or wealth manager, you can try The WMA.

Read more about how to find an adviser.  

If you’re suspicious, report it

You can report the firm or scam to us by contacting our Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768 or using our reporting form

If you’ve given your bank account details to a firm you think may be operating a scam, tell your bank immediately.

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. 

Be wary of future scams

If you’ve already invested in a scam, fraudsters are likely to target you again or sell your details to other criminals. 

The follow-up scam may be completely separate or related to the previous fraud, such as an offer to get your money back or to buy back the investment after you pay a fee. 

If you have any concerns at all about a potential scam, contact us immediately.