Warning of fraudster families running pension scams

Warning of fraudster families running pension scams

Regulators, government agencies and police forces have warned of fraudster families running pension scams worth millions of pounds.

Intelligence gathered by members of the multi-agency Project Bloom group, which was set up in 2012 to tackle pension scams, has shown a number of organised crime groups led by married couples or families were targeting pension holders.

The taskforce announced today (February 12) that a number of individuals linked to the scams have now been suspended or banned from being trustees, while companies used for scams have been shut down.

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In some cases, the group stated, the families had hired rogue financial experts with specialist pension knowledge, including accountants, advisers and trustees, to run large-scale scams for them.

Without these professional enablers the frauds wouldn’t have been successful, Project Bloom stated.

According to data published by the FCA in January, victims of pension scams lost an average of £91,000 each to fraudsters in 2017.

They reported receiving cold-calls, offers of free pension reviews and promises of high rates of return - all of which were key warning signs of scams, the taskforce stated.

With the introduction of the cold calling ban last month, unsolicited calls about pensions have become illegal, and companies which break these rules can face fines of up to £500,000.

The partners of Project Bloom – which include The Pensions Regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Serious Fraud Office, among others – met in January to discuss these issues.

Representatives of the Pension Scams Industry Group (PSIG) – which launched a code of practice to combat pension fraud in June – reported that pension providers were identifying more suspicious transfer requests than ever before, and were alerting members to what they believe could be scams.

According to Nicola Parish, TPR’s executive director of frontline regulation, trustees and administrators "play a key role in preventing members from falling victim to scams by identifying suspicious requests early".

She said: "The better they are at spotting the signs of a scam, the quicker members can be warned and we can investigate.

"Working together we can target those trying to plunder people’s pension pots and bring them to justice."

Guy Opperman, minister for Pensions and Financial Inclusion, said: "Scammers who siphon off savings built up over decades are the lowest of the low. When you’ve worked hard and done the right thing, you don’t expect a con artist to rob you of the future you deserve.

"We’re determined to put a stop to the misery these callous crooks inflict, which is why we’re supporting the work being done to stamp out pension theft."

Margaret Snowdon, the chair of PSIG, added: "The closer we work together, the more difficult it is for scammers to steal people’s pensions.

"We will continue to do everything we can to spot possible scams early so we can help consumers to avoid becoming victims."