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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?

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.

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.

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 ?

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 ” .

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.

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.

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 !

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 ? .

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 .

A J Renouf says:
7 December 2017

I had a Personal pension with Equitable Life from well before they got into financial trouble. Following 3 years of pension fund readjustment downwards, I was approached by a Pension advisor, pertaining to be associated with Equitable Life, offering to help sort out my position. As it turned out this was a highly leveraged commissioned advice, but I did find the whole process totally believable and proceeded. My pot of nearly £100,000 was moved to a North of England Wealth advisory company, then onto an Irish Bond administrator.
I have recently been advised that this highly speculative SIPP ( I had never been told it was going to be a SIPP) has now gone into administration with the prospect of zero monies outcome.
Although a government compensation of approx. £1500 for Equitable I am now left on a state pension, very much regretting being thrifty and saving for my senior years. Failure in this turmoil of Financial Reform , Lack of supervision by Government of this scam. Has been a painful cost to myself.