Last week I received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions, informing me that they would be phoning me today between 10 am and midday. They wanted to ask me about any private pensions or annuities I might be in receipt of. Well that's all right I thought, no problem there, because the answer is none.
The phone call came at 10.20. It was a pleasant sounding young Scottish man name of Eddie. He asked me lots of questions about my income and any savings, and then he asked me did I have, or would I be receiving, a private pension of any kind.
Because I don't have a private pension, and so won't be getting one I answered no to that question. There was a noticeable silence on the other end of the phone. Then:
"Yes you do," he said.
"No," I said, "I don't have a private pension."
"According to the information I have here," he went on, "You are due to get a private pension from Friends Provident."
At this news I got a bit excited, "This is marvellous news," I said. "I had no idea about this. Can you tell me more about it?"
"So you say you are not receiving or about to receive a private pension from them?"
"I think there has been a mistake," I answered, " I doubt very much if I paid into a private pension scheme. I think I would remember if I had."
He then gave me a phone number for Friends Provident and asked me to phone them about it and get straight back to him with any information.
I phoned the number straight away. Told them what had happened and gave them all my details. They searched their records. It was as I suspected. Friends Provident had never heard of me.
I phoned back to Eddie at the Pensions Department - we were on first name terms by now - and told him I would not be getting a private pension from Friends Provident. He then gave me a phone number for Scottish Life, and told me to ask them the same questions, and then get back to him straight away. I phoned them too. They had never heard of me either.
So I phoned Eddie at the Pension Service, "Hello Eddie," I said, "It's John Bain here."
"Hallo John. Don't say anything yet. I just have to ask you some security questions."
So he asked me some questions about my identity. Full name, date of birth, that sort of thing. Then he asked me if I had any more information about my private pension.
"Nothing new to add Eddie," I said, "Scottish Life haven't heard of me either."
"That's OK John, I know that, I have been making inquiries too." Then he said, "Listen John, Don't worry about it. I'll sort things out at this end. Nice talking to you. Goodbye."
"Goodbye Eddie," and he was gone. Nice bloke.