Defined Contribution 

Regulator's step-in trustee reveals scale of pension scams

Regulator's step-in trustee reveals scale of pension scams

Independent trustee firm Dalriada has been appointed to intervene in pension schemes where more than £130m has been transferred as a result of pension scams.

The company, which is called upon to step in and run schemes by The Pensions Regulator (TPR), said this is the volume of funds transferred in the cases they have been involved in the past seven year.

However, Dalriada argued this is just the tip of the iceberg, since there are other firms appointed by the watchdog to intervene when it suspects that a defined contribution scheme is being used for a pension scam, or has been a target of one.

It is also "a well-documented fact that no one really know how much is involved in scams," said Sean Browes, senior trustee representative at Dalriada.

Margaret Snowdon, chair of the Pensions Administration Standards Association (PASA) and of the Pension Liberation Group, estimated pension savers have lost more than £1bn to scams.

The Pensions Regulator has admitted it may never be able to identify the scale of pension scams.

Since its first appointment by the regulator, back in 2011, Dalriada has been called to step in with more than 70 schemes, with some of the pension scams involving more than one of these pension plans.

This year only, Dalriada has been called to intervene in four different schemes, which is almost unprecedented in numbers, said Mike Crowe, trustee representative at the firm.

The firm's experience is having one of these appointments a year, he added.

Last year, for example, Dalriada was involved in a case where four people who ran a series of pension scams were ordered to repay £13.7m.

Mr Crowe said: "Scams are not going away despite a lot of the work being done, such as the cold calling ban.

"There are layers of people between the victim and the actual scammer. Each one of those is taking their cut. They are making calls by the million.

"The cold calling ban itself might not work, because if people are engaging in some criminal activity they just not going to stop just because someone legislates against it, but the whole idea of the ban is that it makes the message much clearer [to savers]."

Mr Browes argued that scammers are evolving, and a lot of today's frauds involve investments, especially in property and overseas.

Neil Copeland, director at Dalriada, explained that the firm sees a range of investments in the schemes it is appointed to, ranging from "some that are clearly scams to others that are just completely inappropriate".

The latter occurs when the pension plans have "members that want to retire next year and their money has been locked up in investments which have a 21-tie-in period, so there is no way they can easily access the funds".

He added: "We spend a lot of time trying to negotiate an early redemption of those funds, but sometimes if the former trustees have signed on these investments, they are contractually binding.