Tracey McDermott, director of enforcement and financial crime at the FCA, said: “People should be very wary if they are contacted out of the blue by someone offering a free pension review.
“Most of the companies offering this ‘service’ are not authorised by us, and we’re concerned that the reviews often end with pension pots placed in higher risk, unregulated investments.”
The ‘reviews’ are designed to persuade consumers to move money saved in existing personal or occupational pensions to a self-invested personal pension or a small self-administered scheme.
At this stage the pension pot is then typically invested in unregulated investments such as overseas property developments, forestry or storage units known as store pods.
The regulator also revealed some firms were claiming they were acting on behalf of the government to provide free guidance for people at retirement, despite the initiative not having been launched yet.
Ms McDermott told consumers to ignore companies offering such services and added: “If you are called out of the blue to discuss your pension, just hang up. Your pension is far too important to be put in the hands of a cold-caller.”
Adrian Boulding, pensions strategy director at London-based Legal & General, said: “Consumers need to maintain constant vigilance to protect their assets.
“This is a classic fraudster trick – they try to associate themselves with something the consumer will have heard about in the news, gaining a fig leaf of credibility, and then striking when the victim’s guard is down.”