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Guy Opperman MP: together we can stop pension scammers

pension shark

Today the government has announced new measures to tackle pension scams. Guy Opperman MP, Minister for Pensions and Financial Inclusion, joins us as a guest author to explain more…

Pension savings are a personal investment in your future. They are your passport towards a financially secure retirement.

But research shows that every second an average of eight people in the UK are being targeted by cold callers who are after their hard-earned savings. That’s an equivalent of 250 million calls per year.

And sadly, according to new figures, an estimated £43m has been unlawfully obtained by scammers since April 2014, with victims having lost an average of nearly £15,000.

Action on pensions scams

So today we’re announcing a number of new measures to better protect savers. These measures include a ban on all pensions cold calling, and that extends to emails and text messages too.

We’re also tightening HM Revenue and Customs rules to stop scammers opening fraudulent pension schemes, and will be taking tougher actions to help prevent the transfer of money from occupational pension schemes into fraudulent ones.

Having carried out a detailed public consultation, these new measures will be introduced to cut off private pension scams at their very source and protect savers from the threat of unscrupulous scammers – a cause that Which? has been campaigning hard for.

Once introduced, I want to reassure you all that these measures will ensure that no legitimate firm without an existing customer relationship will be able to cold call you about your pension.

This will cut off the main mechanism used by scammers to persuade people that they are offering legitimate pension investments and services, and in doing so also reduce the number of transfers made to illegitimate schemes.

Being scam aware

While today’s announcement should provide assurance to you and millions of others, our advice remains to be scam aware and wary of any form of advice linked to your pension pot or cash lump sums.

To help you be scam aware, here are my eight top tips:

  • 1. Hang up on cold callers: Often scammers will call out of the blue offering a ‘free assessment of your current pension funds’, or free financial advice, for example.They might invite you to ‘use your pension savings more wisely’ by transferring them into investment schemes – such as in properties overseas, storage companies or fine wines – offering low risks and high returns.No reputable organisation would ever do such a thing, so the chances are they’re simply laying the ground work to steal your money. If anyone contacts you out of the blue about your money, don’t talk to them. Just hang up!
  • 2. Research, research, research: If an offer promises ‘guaranteed’ returns or seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be on your guard. Do your homework and check all the details before signing anything. Take a look at the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) list of known scams.
  • 3. Things aren’t always what they seem: Don’t be lured by smart brochures and professional looking websites. Scammers want to trick you and this is one way they do it. Check everything and seek reputable advice.
  • 4. Don’t be rushed into a decision: Scammers will try to pressure you with time-limited offers and create a sense of urgency. Take your time to make all the checks you need, even if this means turning down an ‘amazing’ deal.
  • 5. Friends aren’t always right: Don’t choose a scheme just because someone you know has. Some have fallen for scams simply because they’d been ‘recommended by a friend’. As with any important decisions, investigate the details.
  • 6. Find out if the ‘advisor’ is FCA approved: Scammers can pose as pension advisers, so check to make sure yours is registered on the FCA’s website.
  • 7. If in doubt, call The Pensions Advisory Service: You can call them on 0300 123 1047 or visit their website for free pensions guidance.
  • 8. If you think you’ve been scammed, report it: You can report the scam to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040. You should also contact your pension provider immediately as they may be able to stop a transfer. And nuisance calls can be reported via the Which? nuisance calls reporting tool.

So remember, if a financial deal sounds too good to be true, it usually is – make sure you question the call, hang up, research, report and together we’ll stop these criminals in their tracks.

This is a guest contribution by Guy Opperman, the Minister for Pensions and Financial Inclusion. All views expressed here are the Minister’s own and not necessarily those also shared by Which?.

Have you been cold called about your pension savings? What did you do?

Comments
Guest
Harvey Elliott says:
24 August 2017

Any scheme to withdraw an entire pension pot should be subject to a 3 month cooling off period. That way the pensioner has ample time to research the validity of any proposed scheme, and change or withdraw as necessary, after taking appropriate advice. alternatively the law should revert back to how it was.

Guest
Peter McCormick says:
3 September 2017

My view is that the company that provides the telephone lines for these scammers should be held responsible. There are far too many companies that set up a shady business; charging exhorbitant costs to call them; and telepone companies are happy to take the business from them and not care what they are up to. If telephone companies were held responsible noe of these companies would be able to operate (in the UK). I appreciate that presents a problem if the caller is from outside the UK, however people calling from outside the UK still have to access our phone system, so there should be some indentifaction process available. I would also prohibit companies selling on customer information and have severe penalties for those that do. It seems to me the first step in identification fraud is indentifying a prospective victim, yet we allow companies to freely sell on their customer details, without any real safeguards.

Guest

Not quite there Peter many of those calls originate from outside the UK by tech companies that allow ( for a price ) calls to the UK that can be traced if its through the private overseas company – VoIP is just one method I actually know of many websites in the USA that will provide this service to hide your originating call , US authorities can authorize the tracing back of this and have done successfully but in the UK they are up against International law and big business also use those services so dont want it stopped. If the calls actually come from a UK based company then they could be traced and charged but the government wont sanction telephone companies to trace back those calls as it effects business .

Guest
Mike Farrow says:
25 August 2017

Did I see anything about prison sentences for fraud, because anything the government try to do, won’t stop them, so how about starting with 5 years and going up depending on the amount. The trouble is door to door or telephones won’t stop them whether it is 5,000 or 500,000 or 5,000,000.

Guest
Calista Harris says:
29 August 2017

As Mike says whilst white collar crime is rampant in the UK, loads of discredited CEOs are allowed to start companies after they defrauded loads of people – they should receive custodial sentences and not been allowed to start companies for life. This is justice – all govs do is fine them if and when they catch them. This is unacceptable when small thieves get a criminal record and custodial sentences. Also regulators are useless in this country to include the SFO…

Guest

You have every reason to complain Calista I have found charge after charge directed against CEO,s in the USA brought by a US Federal attorney and an agent of the FBI .Another $400million securities fraud ,again the FBI+ various US government departments it just goes on . Yes you guessed right NO “slap on the wrist” here –long jail time forced to sell everything to pay the public back and there,s me thinking the government here copies everything that happens in the USA including its Laws . USA a country that protects its people .

Guest
IAN KIRBY says:
25 August 2017

There should be more emphasis on the spirit of ALL laws passed in Parliament, because the legal eagles that search for loopholes in such legislation, cannot fail to recognise they are basically finding ways to make laws impotent. This is against the spirit of Democracy, & most certainly illegal in itself. This applies to pension laws in particular, as they are neccesarily complicated & give great scope for cynical lawyers to allow their clients free range, to pickpocket us all.

Guest
Tony Manson says:
25 August 2017

I really thought it the was the most stupid thing to allow pensions to be taken in large lump sums. It stands to reason that some would see the provision of a car or a holiday as more important than any security for old age. And when their own provision was exhausted in this stupid fashion would then call again for a larger state provision. I am sorry to say too that Brown signalled the end of final salary pension schemes when he stupidly interfered with the tax regime surrounding them. Employers could not act quickly enough to dump them afterwards

Guest
Tom Goss says:
25 August 2017

I agree with the other comments advocating committal to prison for such scamming (theft, fraudulent) practices. Not all pensioners are in a vulnerable condition due to illness (mental and physical) but some are and are easy targets for these criminals. Our legislators seem to be generally accepting of the devastation theft through white collar crime causes to victims. There are and have been many high publicity examples reported historically where entire pension funds have been looted . We need regulations with teeth and impact in this area of business – a call for ethical practice is worse than useless in the face of absolute greed .

Guest
John Rouse says:
25 August 2017

As an ordinary punter, as soon as the changes to pensions were announced I could see that it was obvious what was going to happen. How come all these ‘intelligent’ people that design these changes couldn’t predict what was going to happen. God save us from experts and scammers – are they the same people?

Guest
Mulligan says:
25 August 2017

The more I see legal and financial experts having a free rein to influence policy. The more worried I am for our future financial security. You never see a poor banker but I see no return on my savings while my children are paying interest on their loans and mortgages. It’s all a cynical racket

Guest
Doug Meadows says:
25 August 2017

The punishment, has got to be tough, to make these criminal, think twice before stealing from pensioners.

Guest
Paul Morris says:
25 August 2017

You talk of pension scammers cold calling and the like, but there is no mention of the biggest pension scam of them all and that is by the government themselves! They have scammed me and thousand like me out of around a third (in my case) of our state pension. It effects all military veterans and civil servants who retire/retired after April 2016. I payed National insurance for every day of my working life have 42 qualifying years but HM government by a stroke of a pen (changing the rules) have taken over £80 per week off me personally, according to my pension forecast, and suddenly retirement isn’t really an option any more!

Guest
Roger Jones says:
25 August 2017

Cold calls generally are a curse of the age. They are particularly of concern to vulnerable pensioners. Governments rarely do anything about the real issues that affect people daily, being more concerned with self-preservation and maintaining the comforts of the Westminster “bubble”. This may be a good move but the scammers invariably seem to find ways around legislation.

Guest
Glen JONES says:
26 August 2017

Dear Mr Morris, could you possibly elaborate on your statement. I am aware that the government moved the retirement age further on for my ( and probably your) age group, I am 56 by the way, so I will now be retiring at 67 when all my working life I was promised it would be 65, but is there something that I am not aware of. I am ex RAF and served for twelve years, I was expecting my forces pension to begin being paid to me when I was sixty. I would be very grateful if you could please tell me more on this topic, yours Glen Jones.

Guest

Glen – This is Money website- armed forces vets who lost the jobs after government cuts –and were then denied a pension : http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/pensions/article-3555196/Abandoned-Armed-Forces-veterans-lost-jobs-denied-pension.html

Guest
Elizabeth Pearce says:
25 August 2017

As we are leaving the EU the pension rules (opening up the market), should be reversed. We need to go back to the simpler system. Also it should be illegal for the Government to dip into the pension fund like Gordon Brown did and due to interest that would have been accumulated, he has cost people billions of pounds. He started this underfunded crisis (but MPs lile to blame people for living longer instead of admitting the truth) and the EU rules which also cost people 20% off their pensions put the nail in the coffin.

Guest
Stuart says:
25 August 2017

I do not think George Osbourne’s change to allow people to have such ready access to their pension pots was a good idea. The scams were so predictable but on top of this so many people may not have the skills to invest their pension pots themselves – it has to cover the rest of your life! Pehaps it should be compulsory to have impartial advice.

Guest
T WHITEHEAD says:
25 August 2017

I used to think those in Parliament were bright folks but the older I get the more I realise they are not too bright. Legislation will never beat the overseas scammers, calls coming into my phone showed as ‘number withheld’ or international are just cut off automatically so no extra legislation required for me thank you.

Guest
Julia Seiber Boyd says:
25 August 2017

A crackdown is needed on cold-callers re pensions and re “charities” – which disguise money laundering.

Guest
Alan Smart says:
25 August 2017

As an act of serious intent HM government should honour the court order to repay all those who lost their pension when the Provident collapsed through lax accounting by all those involved in its affairs ,including
the auditors ,and government watchdogs in the appropriate department .
Alan S.

Guest
SJ Wright says:
25 August 2017

I know it’s super simplistic but if everyone in the country wrote down THINK SCAM? on a Post It note or piece of paper, or got it laminated onto a little plastic card, and stuck it right next to the phone, it might help people just be aware of scammers before they pick the phone up.

Confidence tricksters are so sly, people really need to be armed and on the defensive these days even before the phone rings. Also have an easy A-B-C of what to say. If you are concerned for your elderly friends or relatives – though of course all ages are open to scam abuse – you could write down that you CAN put the phone down if someone rings you out of the blue. Because often once caught in conversation many people feel obliged to listen when they CAN put the phone down. If it’s looking at you in print, it’s easier to do.

Guest

Scams arrive via email too, not just telephone. Surely include all communication channels to catch & punish fraudsters.

Guest
Sir Mart says:
25 August 2017

I am extremely pleased the Government have given access to personal pension-pots, the old system of compulsory annuities was a total rip-off by any measure ( so when you die the assurance company keeps all your money … oh please ! ), access to YOUR money comes with responsibility, which needs to be taught wisely to everyone from an early age, people who fixate on the old system forget people’s priorities change with age, you may be terminally ill ( if so you may wish to take your pension and spend it within 5 years .. it’s called freedom of choice ). As for scammers, the answer is simple, bring in draconian penalties which on prosecution include 20 years in jail together with total sequestration of ALL their personal assets. (sadly, the overseas scam operations will need international co-operation, which will always remain a threat). Banks could easily seek redress by identifying recipients at the end of the money-transfer chain, all large capital movements can be monitored, so why do banks co-operate so much with these criminals, I’ve never understood the bank’s complicity, the banks have always known who the scammers are.

Guest
Geraldine says:
25 August 2017

As someone who lost their life savings through two scams I’d like to make these points;
1] it seems easier to send a homeless person to prison for stealing a bottle of water than to convict and inprison someone who has set up a ‘false company’, ‘IPR Capital’ for example, in order to defraud and who then go on to defraud. ‘White collar’ crime carried out by mainly white, middle-class men is too often almost accepted by the Powers That Be; they’re ‘one of us. It is too easy for some accountants to ‘hide’ money and other assets of people who have defrauded – houses in wives’ or childrens’ names, school fees in ‘charitable’ trusts, etc. It needs to be more difficult to bend/break the law this way ‘;
2] some of these alleged ‘businesses’ i.e. ‘Voiptel’, ‘Sterling and Bond’ seem to operate out of ‘virtual offices’. There seems to be little/no interest taken by those letting these ‘virtual’. spaces of who these people, their tenants, are and what they are doing. I feel they need to be more strictly regulated;
3] bona-fide-ish companys need to record all conversations. A third company in which I ‘invested’, dealing in wine, cold-called me and gave me what I allege to be misleading information, both before and then after the sale. I am looking into the legal implications of this;
4] I was personally disguisted with ‘in’Action Fraud. I found them dangerously inefficient in their work in at least one case.
. One of the companies who had defrauded me had a known Bank Account number and Bank address. I contacted the manager of this city of London branch and they stated there was a good chance of getting my money back in Action Fraud worked promptly. I also found out the actual trading address, as well as the ‘virtual’ address, their previous address, and through a business website, the actual names of the directors and their home addresses. I also found the stated address of their accountants.
I gave ‘in’Action Fraud the details, both over the phone and by email. I received an email back to confirm they had received my email.
Then I heard nothing. Nada. Niet. Eventually a letter arrived which someone had kindly redirected to my correct address. [ ‘Action’ Fraud had sent it to an address that had nothing to do with me]. I had dome all the investigative work, they followed-up nothing at all, and then even messed up my address!
Fraud needs to be given a much higher priority. In my experience, ‘Action’ Fraud are a waste of money and not fit for purpose.

Guest
Mrs N Decent says:
25 August 2017

Hi we have to put warnings in ink in newspapers and magazines and billboards. A lot of people don’t have computers and Internet

Guest
david burton says:
26 August 2017

It is very difficult when investing money these days, too much to choose from, and of course the ones that just want your money.
If it is a pension, I think the best people to know are either the advisor or the company you are with.
The advisor should be aware of scams and do all the correct checks and be insured; at a price.
But if you go aloan; then the company you have the pension with; should be responsible
for where it goes, ie. should know if the transfer is to a legit company or bogus one and advise you.
This is then backed by the Government as they will have given permission for the company to operate.
Could this be set up ?

Guest
keith morgan says:
26 August 2017

anyone caught cold calling in any way should face a very heavy fine and or imprisonment

Guest
Frank Connolly says:
26 August 2017

Jail them first then a trial (if? found guilty min 5 years actual for all concerned and no time of for good behaviour) after any moneys have been recovered.

Guest
bishbut says:
26 August 2017

All the do-gooders now in power would not allow it a good idea though Are any sentences tough or long enough Do-gooders it might harm them brigade run this country and have done so for far too long

Guest
Dave says:
27 August 2017

[Sorry, Dave. This comment has been removed for breaking our Community Guidelines. Please ensure that your comments could not be considered rude or offensive to others. Thanks, mods]

Guest
John Harding says:
27 August 2017

These scammers are a plague. When they are caught they do not get severe enough sentences. They cost everyone money whether it is a pension scam or other,and you do not have to be involved in a scam. It costs money for your virus protection.
I’m sure the internet suppliers such as B T could do more to eliminate these people and the government could send them to prison for say 30 yrs minimum instead of treating them as naughty children or refusing to extradite them as a fairly recent case shows.

Guest
David Worrall says:
27 August 2017

It’s high time that the Government stopped pussy footing about and cracked down hard on these unscrupulous parasites. Every proven instance of a positve scam should be given the hardest penalty possible, preferably a long jail sentence linked to full media naming and shaming of the offender or offenders. Hopefully, this may then make any future scammers think twice before attempting to carry out this thoroughly deplorable and obnoxious way of extorting money from innocent victims.

Guest
bishbut says:
28 August 2017

again do-gooders run this country so there is no chance at all of the needed very hard and tough sentences they will say they need help not a long prison sentence Are not all prisons now just holiday camps ?

Guest

Sentences have been “toughening up ” in this country , in some directions but not all . This country hasn’t reached the stage cof US private jails —yet . The problem Bishbut is that all the anger is directed against big business and HMG because they act in unison and so will not hamper nor prosecute those – “movers+ shakers ” as an ex PM once said and which I found the saying originates in the USA . In other words the “held in high esteem ” Laws of the Land are corrupt instead of “One Law(ring ) for ALL ” as the movie -Lard(sorry -lord ) of the Rings says its a case of one law for the rich+powerful and another for the poor. when you get-quote- not in the public interest or- the CPS has decided not to proceed with this case or the “best one ” —- the police have “”” lost “””” the files –total bull. Whatever way you look at it many Britons in this country are not happy with this lopsided (in ) -justice and neither am I because I have the records of a large number of the cover-ups involving “those at the top ” .

Guest

The problem, Bishbut, is that the evidence doesn’t support your desire for long and tough sentences. We imprison a higher proportion of our population than anyone else in Western Europe. Now, if we assume the UK population isn’t somehow genetically disposed towards committing crimes, why do we still have crime? Whole other topic, crime and punishment, but despite our gut reaction to those who commit crimes we almost certainly have to look at other ways of dealing with offenders.

Scammers (if they can be caught, of course) could be sentenced to enforced community service in which they would have to work on behalf of those they’d scammed. Until the debt was repaid. The other side of that, of course, is that you’d need very tight supervision, but I suspect it won’t be that long before technology could provide that quite well.

Guest
Carol Ann Barrett says:
27 August 2017

Stop making electoral register info available to anyone other than the council and perhaps other government bodies. The companies that buy lists are very often too pushy with pensioner’s. I personally don’t think these lists should be sold. It’s private and personal information. Not everyone realises they can opt out, that part could be bigger and clearer and fully and clearly explained.

Guest
Jan W says:
27 August 2017

So what about the Government Pension now coming under the umbrella of ‘benefits ‘ for all pensioners? Pensioners born prior to the early 1950’s that have worked all their lives & are no longer receiving a full pension entitlement? Do the Government consider that their day to day living expenses are exactly the same as every other pensioner?? It appears not to be so as they are no longer respected sufficiently to be elligable to receive the full State Pension because of their date of birth !

Guest

Jan -if you pay into something all your life on a compulsory basis how can it be a “benefit ” because you have lost money PAYING into it ?? Using the same government propaganda a death benefit “benefits ” YOU . I actually agree with you although I suspect somebody is going to post a long diatribe in detail on how the government has “maneuvered ” the goal posts justly ?? . They actually changed the rules Jan —to suite themselves. They reckon -well those old “f**ts” will die off soon , its funny though with the same breath they want the same old f**ts to pay for their children indiscretions and sell their paid for homes for a short term holiday its blatant rip-off commercialism. The banks (big banks ) want us all in debt THEN they have total control over us.

Guest
Peter says:
29 August 2017

Its a start but it will not stop callers from overseas who are generally immune to UK law. More needs to be done

Guest

Stop all cold calling regardless of what the product or service is, we’re not stupid if we want something we can sort it out ourselves. The phone companies could also help stop these scammers because they should notice the same or similar telephone numbers repeatedly calling their customers, like the banks do. We have friends and family numbers so most phone companies would recognise these.

The company issuing these scamming telephone numbers to fraudsters should be made to repay all the money they’ve scammed out of people plus jail the CEO and his staff should be jailed for 25 years each.

All the phone companies need to fight this fraud together.

Guest
Nick Gyngell says:
29 August 2017

I feel the telephone companies should do more to stop these calls, they certainly know when and to who my calls are made, they never miss a single phone call on my bill, I don’t know how these scammers can get away without paying their bills; In which case they should know who is making these calls and hold them to account, or stop anyone without a paying telephone number making calls at all! They seem to have the technology for almost anything else.

Guest
Nati says:
30 August 2017

Any change in legislation intended should already at the wording think about possible misuse of the changes.
So, before it goes to any vote : let it be read by a person without legal training, in the 30 to 50 ties.
(Best would be naturally a person known for objecting to statements. If available).
Any paragraph , which gives rise to a question, has to be re-evaluated based on he content of the question.

The use of nearly similar names or emails is one of the first points to be fixed.

A nation wide education that when answering a telephone not using your name is in these days essential. “Good day!” should do.
Asking to repeat the name of the company has already led to many call s being ended by the caller; in my experience.

Guest
Valerie Edge says:
2 September 2017

I think that while it is a good idea to ban the calls, emails etc about pensions; it would be worthwhile if this could be monitored to check that scammers are respecting the ban.

Guest
Donna Murray says:
3 September 2017

One of the main reasons why these scammers are successful is through the companies who sell on our details. Although it’s now too late it is where the government should have initially started and introduced legislation preventing this. There are now (and no-one knows how many) multiple companies in the UK and around the world who have our information and am sure sell them on to other companies when they no longer have a use for them.

Guest
William Findley says:
4 September 2017

The problem is not just for these scams, but the courts hands are tied by the law of the land. Criminals of many kinds aren’t bothered anymore about doing easy time.
My answer would be to have shorter sentences, but make it so miserable, they would cry themselves to sleep every night! We are far too soft! I am not advocating a return of the birch etc, but, all criminals should be made to work while incarcerated, without any television, games, iPads etc. If they won’t work, then they don’t eat! If I hadn’t worked there would have been no food on my table!
MAKE THEM PAY! Anything they own should be sold to compensate their victims! Let their family go without, not innocent people.
W.J.Findley

Guest
D G HUGHES ,Mr . says:
12 September 2017

Fraud starts at the Top of Government with the past P,M T Blair, with a statement I will take SERP,s to
Create Pension Credit s . This was shown live on T V. In the House of Commons, and the M P s allowed him to
DO IT, some shouted you can’t do that it’s thief , against the LAW, well my payments of SERP,s ceased,.
They in the House Kept Quite , just water under the ? .

Guest

Mr.Hughes- “and there was the sound of a voice crying in the wilderness -do Justice to the poor, harm no man ” and John the Baptist was ignored over 2000 years ago , nothing has changed in that time –money-money-money- its a rich mans world .