Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been pressed to take an interest in the ever growing pension scams issue to stop it becoming a “national scandal”.
In an open letter to the PM, published today (September 28), Andy Agathangelou, founder of the Transparency Task Force, said the prime minister’s support was key and that under “leadership through visible personal interest”, parliament could stop pension scams reaching “pandemic-like proportions”.
The letter followed a meeting with the prime minister last week (September 25) to discuss the scams issue.
It also urged other members of the government to show leadership and called on chancellor Rishi Sunak to support the proposal drafted by Margaret Snowdon, chairwoman of the Pension Scams Industry Group, for a tax amnesty for pension scam victims.
According to Mr Agathangelou, this would enable HMRC to treat pension scam victims more fairly and stop it from having to “profit from the proceeds of crime”.
In August the Financial Conduct Authority warned more than £30m had been lost to pension scams in the past three years alone, with individual losses ranging from less than £1,000 to as much as £500,000.
Mr Agathangelou warned Mr Johnson to not underestimate the scale of the problem or the ingenuity of scammers to adapt and come up with new ways to steal savers’ pensions.
Mr Agathangelou said: “Perhaps, under your ‘leadership through visible personal interest’ you may be able to harness the power of a bipartisan parliament to get the pension scams problem under control; and thereby deliver a shining example of the scarce, sought-after and special prize that is a united parliamentary success.
“I pray, for the sake of pension scam victims – past, present and regrettably, future; that you can find a way to give our collective efforts for this noble and necessary cause your visible blessing.”
The letter praised the leadership already shown by Bob Blackman, chairman of the newly formed All Party Parliamentary Group on Pensions Scams and chairman of the Work and Pensions committee Stephen Tims, who has just opened an inquiry on pension scams.
Mr Agathangelou added: “Perhaps now more than ever, the world is looking to the UK as a beacon of fairness, justice and integrity.
“As a global leader in financial services, the UK has a real opportunity to show that it takes all kinds of financial crime seriously, and that it is a safe, fair and transparent place to do business.”
Earlier this month (September 16), Tim Fassam, director of policy and government relations at Pimfa, told the Work and Pensions committee the City watchdog’s failure to provide adequate supervision of firms could be to blame for the increase in scams linked to high-risk investment products.
He said although the growing trend of individuals being persuaded to invest in illiquid products was not strictly considered a scam, the committee needed to look into this as more pension savers were being targeted.