FCA says lack of funds is hurting scams work

FCA says lack of funds is hurting scams work

The City watchdog has claimed it needs more funds in order to run wide-reaching campaigns to raise awareness about pension fraud and the impact it can have on victims.

Appearing at a Work and Pensions committee hearing on pension scams this morning (January 6), Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the Financial Conduct Authority, said scam campaigns had been a success so far but a lack of resources and funds was stopping them from going even further.

Mr Stewart said: “The campaigns that we have run through Project Bloom and the ScamSmart website the FCA runs together with the other information that we have has been very effective but I think it has always been limited by the amount of money we have actually had to spend on it. It needs much broader saturating coverage.

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“The success of these campaigns has been good but I think we need to go further but there is a real question of resources and money here.”

Graeme Biggar, director general of the National Economic Crime Centre, agreed that more resources were needed in order to tackle fraud.

He told the committee that although fraud makes up about a third of all reported crime, currently fewer than 1 per cent of police officers are dedicated to investigating fraud, which in turn leads to bad outcomes for victims.

Mr Biggar said: “We are never going to be able to dedicate the number of police to investigate individual cases that would be needed to go after every single (fraudster) in the way that we would like to do and in the way that victims would like us to do.

"We need to be more intelligent as to how we approach that and that’s what we have been trying to do and drive."

He added that to get around this issue the focus needed to be on protecting savers and ensuring they are not scammed in the first place.

There is “definitely more scope" for information sharing on pension scams between pension providers, regulators and police to tackle this issue, Mr Biggar said.

During the session The Pensions Regulator revealed that at least £54m of lost pension savings was under investigation, involving more than 18,000 savers. 

However this is likely only a fraction of the problem as many cases go undetected or the victims feel too ashamed to come forward.

Scams decreasing

But the committee heard how pension scams had evolved over time and were in fact decreasing.

Nicola Parish, executive director of frontline regulation at TPR, said a few years ago fraudsters would encourage savers to set up sham pension schemes but nowadays they encourage people to leave their pension scheme and instead transfer to a vehicle used to invest in fraudulent schemes.

Mr Stewart said it was difficult to estimate the full size and impact of scams, largely because pension scams now sit within a subset of broader investment fraud which has been increasing.