BEWARE of scammers and cold callers out to raid your pension pots, warns a leading South West company of independent financial advisers.

Changes to pension rules could open the door to fraudsters intent on looting hard-earned retirement funds, says Cheltenham-based Hugh Davies Associates (HDA).

“Pension reforms increase the risk of people being conned out of their lifesavings,” said HDA’s managing director Robin Etherington.

HDA, MPs and watchdog bodies are also concerned that Britain could be on the verge of another miss-selling scandal hot on the heels of PPIs.

The new rules, which came into force last April, allow people aged 55 and over to cash in their pension pots rather than take a retirement income.

MPs on the Work and Pensions Committee issued an alert about scams and the threat of a miss-selling scandal if pensioners were unable to make informed decisions.

Tewkesbury MP Laurence Robertson is urging people in the town and surrounding district to be vigilant. He said: “Unfortunately, there are scammers looking to exploit pension flexibilities and I would urge my constituents to take precautions when considering making any changes.

“Although the Government has taken measures to ensure that the public are aware of how to detect a scam, if you do have any doubt, it is always best to take advice first, either through the Government’s service Pension Wise or a financial adviser.“

Now HDA is urging people considering their pension pots to seek expert advice from professional, legitimate and trusted chartered financial planners.

“Don’t get scammed,” said Mr Etherington. “It’s a minefield out there. Fraudsters are waiting to pounce on unsuspecting, trusting people.

“They can come at you from all sides, cold calling at the door, persistent phone calls and through email, social media and websites.”

Robin and his four senior advisers deliver bespoke lifelong services to their 2,000 clients. They steer the client to the best adviser to suit their needs and give continuous guidance at any stage for as long as needed.

This year is HDA’s 30th anniversary and Robin and his team have been looking back to the early days of the industry, recalling how there was a free-for-all, with hordes of so-called ‘financial advisers’ popping out of the woodwork and barely any regulation.

“When I started in the mid-1980s it was like the Wild West – one minute someone was in double glazing and the next he was a financial adviser.

“The industry has developed vastly but there are still financial advisers out there who are untrustworthy or not that experienced.”

Robin also warns that some retirees may be easy prey for fraudsters because investment and retirement funding is littered with complexities.

“Some people may be embarrassed or afraid to look stupid when approached or hounded,” he said. “Plain speaking is essential to simplify complicated information. We ensure security, peace of mind and a safe pair of hands.”

The Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee also said some retirees were not being made aware of charges they were incurring when making changes to their pension pots.

The Financial Conduct Authority said con-artists had been quick to take advantage of the change. Spokesman Chris Woolard told the committee that 10,000 people had filled in an online form outlining details of scam attempts since the new rules came into effect last April.

Robin said: “Working with financial advisers you can trust has never been more important for people than it is today.

“With so much market unsettlement, global woes affecting the man and woman on the street, changing tax regimes and share falls hitting pension pots, many find it hard to know what to do.

“The changes to the pension rules have created a colossal worry by passing the burden on to the individual. How much to take out tax-free, how much to draw down and, to make it worse, there are so many scams and so much poor advice out there.”