Nearly 400,000 people in Scotland are at risk of being conned out of their retirement savings by scammers, according to research from financial regulators.

More than one in three pension savers north of the Border could fall prey to one of six ruses regularly used by fraudsters, according to the study by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and The Pensions Regulator (TPR).

Scams may start with a cold call, text, social media contact or email offering a free pension review, which leads to claims of guaranteed high returns, exotic investments, timelimited offers and early access to cash before the age of 55.

But money is then often stolen or transferred into a high-risk scheme that is completely inappropriate for retirement savings.

The study, carried out for the FCA and TPR by Censuswide, found that Scots who consider themselves smart, or financially savvy, are just as likely to be persuaded by these tactics as anyone else.

Nicola Parish, executive director of frontline regulation for TPR, said: “Pension scammers are targeting hardworking people across Scotland. They don’t care who they prey on or how many lives they wreck. If you ignore the warning signs you put yourself at risk of losing your savings.

“Victims are left devastated by what has happened to them. Make sure neither you nor any of your loved ones have to go through that ordeal.”

One in five (20 per cent) of respondents aged 45 to 65 said they would be likely to pursue such unusual opportunities, if offered to them.

Helping savers to access their pensions early also proved to be a persuasive scam tactic. And some 15% of 45- to 54-year-old Scotland-based pension savers said they would be interested in an offer from a company that claimed it could help them get early access to their pension.

However, accessing a pension before 55 is likely to result in a large tax bill. Despite the Government banning pension cold-calls in January, 17% of people surveyed in Scotland said they would talk with a cold caller who wanted to discuss their pension plans.

Nearly one in five said they would ask for website details, request further information or find out what they’re offering, even if the call came out of the blue. Victims of pension fraud who report incidents to Action Fraud, the UK’s police reporting centre, had lost an average of £82,000.

Tactics used by scammers include cold calls, “free” pension reviews, claims of guaranteed high returns, time-limited offers and early access to cash before the age of 55.

Investing in high-risk assets such as overseas property and renewable energy bonds was another regularlyused trap.

Age Scotland chief executive Brian Sloan said it was important that people use regulated financial advisers as engaging with cold callers is not worth the risk. “This kind of scam is becoming all too common as fraudsters are using increasingly sophisticated and convincing methods to part people with their hard-earned money,” he said.

“As people look towards retirement we are finding that many feel they do not have enough money to live the life they expected to and could very well be tempted by offers to boost their income in later life. Sadly, far too many become victims of fraud as a result.”

The FCA and TPR have joined forces to urge pension savers to be “ScamSmart” and to check who they are dealing with before making any decision.