TPR unveils scam-busting plan amid cost of living crisis

TPR unveils scam-busting plan amid cost of living crisis
Credit: Lamar Belina/Pexels

The increase in the cost of living may leave savers more vulnerable to scammers, the Pensions Regulator has warned, as it unveils a new three-year plan to protect individuals from pension scams.

In its new scams strategy, published on August 3, the watchdog said it will look to continue improving the coordination of intelligence between scam-fighting partners. 

TPR is concerned that the temptation of promises, such as early access to a pension or higher investment returns, could lure people in even more than usual given the financial difficulties they are facing. For example, savers who are struggling to pay household bills could be sorely tempted by the promise of getting their pension earlier than usual. 

Its three-pronged approach will educate industry and savers on the threat of scams, encourage higher standards and prevent practices that can harm savers’ retirement outcomes, and fight fraud through the prevention, disruption and punishment of criminals.

In the report, Nicola Parish, TPR's executive director of frontline regulation, called on the industry to deliver good outcomes for savers by being proactive in their pension scam warnings, innovative in driving improvements in protection standards and reporting potential crimes to the authorities. 

“Now is the time for the industry, regulators, and government to do more and truly work together to put savers at the heart of all that we do,” she said. 

“We expect industry to lead the way in thinking of innovative ways to protect savers now and in the future,” she added. 

Data-sharing agreements under review

Under its new plan, TPR will review its data-sharing agreements with the Money and Pensions Service and the Financial Conduct Authority, as well as work with MaPS and DWP to analyse the Pension Schemes Act 2021, amber-flag transfer data and develop appropriate policy responses.

It will also work with Pension Scams Action Group partners to review the suitability of scam prevention warnings for savers transferring to self-invested personal pensions and small self-administered schemes.

Margaret Snowdon, chair of the Pension Scams Industry Group, which is part of the PSAG, said she is in full support of TPR’s scams strategy. 

PSIG will contribute to PSAG as a partner and will deliver the elements where it is involved, namely on non-legislative practical solutions, awareness, intelligence and victim support, she said, adding: “Working together and sharing what we know is key to defeating pension scammers. TPR gets this and the reshaping of Project Bloom to PSAG is a leap forward. PSIG fought for this and has delivered practical help over the years, and this has been effective. 

“Pension transfer scams are now much reduced, but of course, scammers move to other approaches, so the battle never ends.”

Under the new plan, the watchdog will encourage the industry to use anti-scam messaging on annual benefit statements and other touchpoints. It will continue to support and amplify the messages of the FCA’s ScamSmart campaign, adapting messaging to deal with new and emerging threats.