In Focus: Vulnerability  

'Shoot first': senior figures call for scam crackdown

While the first report from the WPC's three-part inquiry: Protecting pension savers – five years on from the pension freedoms, will not be published for the next few months, Mr Timms said time was of the essence with scams as the "scope for scamming" was still vast. 

Al Rush, principal of Echelon Wealth, said too many scammers had been getting away with their practices for too long, adding the whole industry needed to call it what it is: "It's theft. We talk about 'white-collar criminals' but they are walking the streets. They've stolen money. Lock them up. 

"Enforcement action needs to be tougher. It's not a 'scam' or 'fraud' - it's 'theft'. We need to stop couching it in nicer terms and call it what it is."

Mr Rush, who has been at the forefront of helping many former British Steel Pension Scheme members who have lost millions collectively as a result of misadvised pension transfers, also criticised regulators for being seemingly slow to act on tip-offs and whistleblowing. 

He claimed he had put across "80 or 90 notifications to the FCA" in the past few years where he and colleagues had noticed instances of "malpractice" but said he could not see any action has been taken. "I can see some of these advisers still walking around", he claimed.

Responding to Mr Rush's comments, a spokesperson for the FCA said: “Whistleblowing reports and industry tip-offs are a vital source of information for us, helping us to do our job and protect consumers. We assess every single report and use these to take action or to inform our supervisory and enforcement strategies in relation to both sectors and firms.”

In a letter to Nikhil Rathi, the FCA's new chief executive, published January 21, Stephen Kinnock, MP for Aberavon, and Nick Smith, MP for Blaenau Gwent - whose constituents in South Wales were particularly affected by the British Steel debacle - raised concerns that the regulator in its current form was not fit for purpose and called on it to ensure that consumers are better protected.

The MPs, who have been part of the group seeking to help the former British Steel workers, urged the FCA to set up a dedicated consumer arm or taskforce that could better deal with consumer issues as they arise.

According to reports, the FCA has reviewed all of the higher-risk advisers who provided advice to British Steel customers; more than 700 advisers are now understood to have stopped providing pension transfer advice.