PFS hits out at government failure to stop overseas scams

PFS hits out at government failure to stop overseas scams

Government attempts to stop scammers preying on vulnerable pensioners fall "far short" of much-needed controls, Keith Richards has said.

The chief executive of the Personal Finance Society (PFS) branded the government's decision to stop short of putting in place measures to prevent activity from overseas "bizzare".

"We need much better policing of the internet to protect the public, and this should have been an essential component of any counter strategy," he said.

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Mr Richards made his comments in response to the ongoing discussions over the nature of financial fraud, and how to stop people from being scammed - in particular, those who are getting hold of their pension pot as a result of April 2015's pension freedom and choice regime.

In August, the government announced its ban on cold calling, giving more powers to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to prevent potentially fraudulent pension schemes from being opened, and to implement  greater action to prevent transfers from genuine occupational pension schemes to fake schemes.

However, despite the planned measures, Mr Richards said he was disappointed the government had not done more.

He said: "To many who are victims of fraud, it all becomes obvious after the event. 

"It therefore needs a co-ordinated approach by the regulator, the government and the [pension] profession to create some form of central register."

Moreover, while Mr Richards was pleased the government had taken some action, he said the lack of clearly laid-out timetables was also "disappointing".

In early September, some industry spokesmen had believed the cold-calling ban might be implemented as early on as the Finance Bill, but there was no mention of it. 

Mr Richards added: "It is disappointing the government are dragging their heels on more decisive action to stop scammers. 

"Marketing and proactive promotion is required to better engage the public but only by regulated firms, which would make life a lot harder for the scammers.

"We are disappointed that clear timelines have not been laid down to tackle the issue head-on, the reasons for which remain unclear. 

"It is far too simplistic to say that is all to Brexit."

John Lawson, head of financial research at Aviva, said he "supported the measures and was please the [cold-calling] ban had been extended to texts and emails".

However, he also lamented the lack of a clear timescale.

Mr Lawson said: "Waiting for the legislation to be tabled when 'parliamentary time allows' is frustrating. 

"The full details of how the ban will work have still to be determined and these will be crucial in determining how effective the ban is likely to be."

In September, the Work and Pensions Committee announced it was launching an inquiry into the scale of scam activity since pension freedoms came into force.