According to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and The Pensions Regulator (TPR) individual losses ranged from less than £1,000 to as much as £500,000, with the typical victim being a man in his 50s.
But the true number of victims is likely to be much higher as savers fail to spot the signs of a scam and do not know how much is in their pots, the regulators warned.
They have now teamed up with football commentator Clive Tyldesley after finding football fans are highly likely to be drawn in by fraudsters.
Research found 43 per cent of football fans approaching retirement knew how much was in their pension pot while 45 per cent did not know how to check if an approach about their pension was legitimate.
This compared to 76 per cent knowing the cost items related to football, such as a season ticket.
Mr Tyldesley said: “Scammers are very good at breaking down your defences and putting you under pressure with various deadlines. But your pension isn’t a football transfer – there are no deadlines!
“Your favourite team wouldn't buy a new striker just because his agent says he's good. They’d ask around, check out his stats, do some research – just like you should when handling your pension plans.
“Before you fall foul to savvy scammers, remember to take your time, seek advice, and speak to an FCA-authorised adviser. Don't agree to anything you’re unsure of.”
The FCA and TPR stepped up their warning on pension scams and have reminded savers to check who they are dealing with before making any changes to their pension arrangements, reject any unwanted offers and consider getting advice.
Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, said: “During these uncertain times, it is more important than ever to defend your lifetime savings from scammers. Fraudsters will seek out every opportunity to exploit innocent people, no matter how much or how little you have saved.
“You can check the status of a firm before changing your pension by visiting the FCA register, and get advice from an FCA authorised firm before making any changes to your pension. And give scammers the boot!”
Separate research from Interactive Investor found 13 per cent of adults admitted to having been scammed, rising to 18 per cent in the 72-77 age category and 20 per cent among those aged over 77.
Investment fraud (32 per cent) followed by current account fraud (22 per cent) were the most common cited types.
Meanwhile, 43 per cent of the 12,000 respondents said they got their money back, and of those scammed, 11 per cent said it had put them off attempting to put their financial affairs in order, for fear of being scammed again.
Myron Jobson, personal finance campaigner at Interactive Investor, said: “Pension scams are simply ghastly and in the worst-case scenario, could result in the loss of a retirement nest egg in an instant.
“The coronavirus pandemic has created a perfect storm for crooks to shroud their nefarious schemes among the uptick in correspondence by legitimate organisations relating to coronavirus measures.
“Even the most seasoned investor can fall victim to scams, so it is more important than ever to take care with your money and look out for the warning signs.”
The increase in pension scams has led the Work and Pensions committee to launch an inquiry on this topic, as part of broader work looking into the impact of the pension freedoms.
Pension freedoms were introduced in 2015 with the aim of giving people aged over 55 more control over how and when they can access their savings.
But due to this level of flexibility scams have boomed, leading former chief executive of the FCA Andrew Bailey to admit the regulator has been playing catch up since the reforms.
The coronavirus pandemic and ongoing financial hardship as a result of lockdown had also provided an extra opportunity for fraudsters to target vulnerable savers and those looking to their pensions to provide additional financial support.
What do you think about the issues raised by this story? Email us on email@example.com to let us know.