Up to £100 million of pensions were reinvested in self storage units, after high pressure sales and underhand tactics were used, and high returns were promised. The returns have not materialised, according to an investigation carried out by BBC’s Radio 4 programme, You and Yours.
A sales company was hired to sell self storage units as investments, and they specifically cold called people with dormant pensions. More than 1,000 people were persuaded to sign their pensions into the scheme, which involved buying “storage pods” in properties owned by self-store operator Store First.
However, the BBC investigation alleges sales staff were told to lie, and encouraged to forge documents, tick compliance boxes and even forge customer signatures, to push through pension transfers. The operation appeared convincing, as one hoodwinked victim told the programme: “They told me it was a very good investment, and that many people have had their money back off it, so I looked on their website, and it looked all kosher.”
Those who bought the units have found returns to be far less than promised, while the units are proving very hard to sell at anywhere near the price paid.
Investigations show that the individuals behind the storage pod sales have connections with other suspect investment programmes, while sums of money due to investors are missing.
In common with many unusual, so-called “alternative” investments, the returns promised were high, and guaranteed. And those offered the units should, under current regulations, have clearly had the high risk nature of the investments clearly explained to them.
Often, when it comes to pension investments, the old adage “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is” comes to mind. Glossy brochures and smart websites are easy to produce, and can help provide a convincing story. But the best step many of us can take, is to speak to a trusted, professional pension advisor.