In Focus: Vulnerability  

'Shoot first': senior figures call for scam crackdown

'Shoot first': senior figures call for scam crackdown
Stephen Timms, WPC chairman, has called for tougher enforcement

Fraudsters who trick people out of their hard-earned savings should be met with a tough enforcement regime, MPs and adviser bosses have claimed. 

Calling for a more robust approach to tackling pensions fraud, Stephen Timms, chairman of the work and pensions select committee, told FTAdviser: "It is becoming clear that the enforcement response, if you do report a scam, is not very convincing.

"I think people just do not have confidence that, if they do make a report [about a scam], that anything helpful is going to happen as a result.

"We really have to gear up effectively to deal with [investment scams]. We are no way ready for it and there is a lot the government needs to do."

His comments were echoed by those of Paul Feeney, chief executive of Quilter and chairman of the Financial Conduct Authority's practitioner panel, who said: "Quilter has pushed hard to get government to do more.

"We are behind [more joined-up enforcement action]. I completely support it and one of the things we can do is get much tougher in this space.

"If the industry and the regulators see websites, for example, where the company is clearly operating outside of its authorisation, and there is potential harm –  [the regulators] should bring the darn things down. Shoot first, and ask questions later. 

"We live in a judicial society where there is a rule of law but where [companies] act outside of that, we can and need to get tougher."

Tougher action, however, needs a joined-up approach - something Mr Timms said just did not exist at the moment.

While he applauded various efforts to tackle the rising problem of pensions fraud, Mr Timms felt the very fact there were so many different agencies meant the action was not as forceful as it needs to be.

He said: "We have this situation where there is a curious fragmentation of various bodies. We have Action Fraud, the Financial Conduct Authority, The Pensions Regulator, the Pensions Ombudsman, the Financial Ombudsman Service, Project Bloom, the police – everything is so fragmented.

"And therefore people aren't quite sure who to report to, so coordinating the enforcement and policing resources around this is one of the things that has to happen."

He states the WPC will continue to do more to make sure the industry plays its part, too. "Our inquiry is still under way and we haven't yet formulated our recommendations but I am concerned this fragmentation of the policing response is one of the things we need to tackle."

Mr Timms stressed it was government's duty to lead the charge. He pointed to the upcoming session of the WPC set to put current pensions minister Guy Opperman on the spot this Wednesday (January 27), during which he indicated he would ask Mr Opperman about this issue.