Regulator warns fraudster websites carry anti-scam message

Regulator warns fraudster websites carry anti-scam message

A number of suspected scam websites have been referred to The Pensions Regulator (TPR) over the suspicion they are being dressed up as legitimate investment vehicles.

The Pensions Regulator is warning rogue pension websites are carrying anti-scam messages to try to trick consumers into thinking they are legitimate entities.

This warning comes after the government announced it was introducing a cold calling ban, which will also include texts and email.

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The new legislation will also include tighter rules to prevent the opening of fraudulent pension schemes and restrictions to prevent transfers into scam schemes.

According to experts, some of the new rules might be introduced as soon as this week in the second Finance Bill of the year.

The Pensions Regulator is currently leading the multi-agency Project Bloom taskforce, which was set up to tackle pension scams.

It includes the Department for Work & Pensions, HM Treasury, the Financial Conduct Authority, HM Revenue & Customs, the Serious Fraud Office, City of London Police, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, The Pensions Advisory Service and the National Crime Agency.

Some of the rogue websites are even carrying the Bloom campaign’s anti-scam material without TPR’s consent, the regulator said.

Some even imply they are regulated by carrying warning messages designed to prevent people falling victim to scams, such as making reference to the tax implications over accessing your pension before the age of 55 and the danger of cold-callers.

According to Lesley Titcomb, chief executive at TPR, “these sites are wolves in sheep’s clothing, lying in wait for unsuspecting victims by portraying themselves as being beyond reproach”.

She said: “The truth is that this next generation of scam sites poses a real threat to people’s financial futures and should be avoided.”

According to government figures, almost £5m was obtained by pension scammers in the first five months of 2017.

It is estimated that £43m has also been unlawfully obtained by scammers since April 2014, with those targeted having lost an average of nearly £15,000.

The regulator is working closely with government, enforcement agencies and key financial service bodies to bring scammers to justice and, through its Scorpion campaign, to help the public protect themselves from scams, Ms Titcomb added.

Malcolm McLean, senior consultant at Barnett Waddingham, said scammers “are pretty clever people” and savers “need to very wary”.

He said: “It is very clear that the original messages [on scams] are applicable here – if someone contacts you out of the blue, without any approach from you in the first place, then you should be extremely suspicious and in most cases, do not deal with them at all.”

Even after the ban on cold calling in implemented, saver need to continue to be cautious, Mr McLean said.

“The ban on cold calling is only going so far, the calls will still be coming in, it is just that it will be against the law to do that,” he added.