Phoenix Group, the UK’s largest specialist consolidator of closed life and pension funds, has revealed the scale of potentially fraudulent pension transfers it has had to tackle.
With more than 6.1 million policyholders and £74bn of assets held by the group’s life companies, including the acquired Axa Wealth, SunLife and Abbey Life businesses, since the start of 2013 Phoenix has revealed it has prevented around £30m of potentially fraudulent pension transfers.
Phoenix revealed the scale of pension transfers it considered dodgy alongside the results of research it commissioned that revealed pension cold calls are on the increase.
A poll of 2,002 UK adults, carried out by Opinium Research from 16 to 19 December 2016, revealed more than one quarter (26 per cent) of UK adults have received a ‘cold’ contact about their pension in the last six months of last year.
The survey showed three fifths (59 per cent) of those were contacted via a telephone call, 25 per cent via email and 20 per cent via letter, with some receiving more than one form of communication.
Seven per cent of those contacted went on to release either some or all of their pension cash, while a further 14 per cent had responded to the person or organisation sending the message.
However, 61 per cent of those surveyed said that they wouldn’t report these calls, primarily because they did not realise that they could.
The figures from Phoenix Life are released ahead of the government’s proposed ban on pension cold calling, which has been largely welcomed by independent financial advisers (IFAs) and industry professionals.
“Fraudsters use a myriad of methods to reach and trick their victims, including face-to-face contact, online marketing, texting, social media and email,” said Philip Kline, intelligence and investigations manager at Phoenix.
“To properly tackle this and significantly reduce the amount of pensions-related fraud, Phoenix believes that the government’s proposal to ban pension cold calling should be extended to include all forms of electronic communications such as email and text messaging.
“Fraud is growing in the pension industry and fraudsters’ methods are constantly evolving to take advantage of the new freedoms and economic trends to target pension savers.
"Phoenix further argues that reporting fraud needs to be simple, quick and easy, and that consumers should be given greater education on the risks of fraud to ensure that they are able to better protect themselves.”
In a similar survey carried out in September 2015, Phoenix found that one fifth (22 per cent) of people had been cold called about their pensions, demonstrating that the trend is on the increase.
“It’s not surprising,” said Tim Harvey, managing director at HR Independent Financial Services.
Mr Harvey said: “There is a lot of money in pensions and otherwise intelligent people can be persuaded to invest in products that they think are regulated. As far as I’m aware, none of my clients have been cold called specifically relating to pensions, but I do speak to all of them on a regular basis with regards to how to deal with cold calls full stop.