Next year threatens to be a chastening one for those making their fortune from pension scams – if we all do our bit.
The government’s recently announced ban on cold calling will draw a line in the sand for scammers. Those who cross it should expect to find themselves in the dock and, hopefully, facing tough sanctions that will send a deterrent message to other would-be crooks.
The ban – along with new rules to prevent the opening of fraudulent pension schemes and restrictions to prevent transfers into scam schemes – will strike a significant blow against pension scammers.
But rather than wait for the new legislation to come into force, we should embed the concept that pensions cold calling is criminal into the national psyche now, to prevent more people losing their savings.
TPR, and I, fully support the ban.
The legislation will allow the prosecution of UK-based scammers. These are the people who cold call potential victims to tempt them into putting their cash into exotic investments with the offer of tax-free loans and higher returns to spend in their retirement.
But it will take time for the new offence to come into law. Until then it’s the message behind the cold calling ban, rather than the punishments available to those who would ignore it, which will bring the greatest benefits.
That message is simple – a cold call about your pension is an attempt to steal your savings.
Making sure consumers take on board this important advice is at the heart of TPR’s mission to protect people’s financial futures, in particular the vulnerable.
We want to be as clear to pension holders as the packaging on cigarettes is to those considering lighting up.
Getting across that financial health warning is the key to building the first defence for consumers against those who would seek to deprive them of their hard-earned savings.
It is inevitable that some criminals will chance their arm. Our job is to make sure that as many people as possible are ready to repel any approach that they might make.
As part of Project Bloom, we already work with our partners – including the likes of the DWP, SFO, FCA, City of London Police, Action Fraud and The Pensions Advisory Service – to tackle the problem.
We educate consumers, push for changes in legislation like the cold calling ban and share intelligence to identify and prosecute those responsible for scams.
But we can’t do it alone. We need everyone to do their bit. We need advisers and trustees to be alert and to inform us about schemes that look suspicious. We need victims and those targeted to come forward to share their experiences so we can prevent others being targeted. We need the media to continue communicating the threat of pension scams to the community – and to make sure that we in Project Bloom stay on our toes.
As individuals we can all play our part by helping to protect the more vulnerable from predators.
It is only through all of us working together – government and regulators, industry, media and the community – that we can strangle criminal attempts to prey on people’s pensions.
The clock is ticking until the cold calling ban comes into force but we can all act now to keep the scammers at bay.
By Anthony Raymond
Acting Executive Director of Regulatory Policy