Opperman warns on pension scams in new tax year

Opperman warns on pension scams in new tax year

Pensions minister Guy Opperman has warned savers to be vigilant when reviewing their retirement plans to avoid being caught out by pension scammers operating online.

Opperman said those considering making changes to their finances and retirement planning in the new tax year should stay alert and speak to a legitimate IFA or consult PensionWise to ensure they are not being scammed.

He said fraudsters “target anyone and everyone”, and that despite successful government action to stop pension cold-calling, pension and investment scams continue.

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In a warning issued yesterday (April 7), Opperman said: “Scammers who steal people’s hard-earned savings are the lowest of the low and the government is working closely with its partners on the best ways to combat, and raise awareness of, pension fraud.

"I have been very clear that some tech companies are failing pension savers; they must do more to crack down on scam adverts and should use their existing powers to verify advertisers and stop taking money from fraudsters who are online scammers using their site to promote fake adverts.”

In a recent meeting with Google, Opperman urged the tech giant to use its powers to verify advertisers and stop online scammers using their site to promote fake adverts.

The Pension Schemes Act contains measures to empower pension schemes to take action where they suspect scam activity and to require members to take guidance if they wish to make certain transfers.

This will allow trustees to prevent transfers which raise any “red flags”.

The Department for Work and Pensions said these protections were part of a suite of measures to protect consumers from pension scams, including the ramping up of communications with over-50s about their choices ahead of retirement.

Last month (March 26), pension schemes were urged to raise the alarm over scams following a long-term drop in reporting.

National fraud and cybercrime reporting centre, Action Fraud, released data which showed a steady fall in scam reports from 1,788 in 2014 to 358 in 2020, constituting an almost 80 per cent reduction.

Although there has been a slight rise in reporting in 2021, the Pensions Regulator called on the industry to be on high alert for criminal or suspicious activity, following a pledge released in November aimed at protecting members from scams.

At least £30m has been identified as lost to scams since 2017, and losses can range from under £1,000 to up to £500,000, according to Action Fraud.

However, the true amount is likely to be higher, since victims often do not realise they have been tricked until many years later.

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