For what feels like the first time in a long time the Spring Statement came and went with pensions left pretty much untouched. This is an unusual reprieve compared to recent years, leaving the administration industry free to focus on the all-consuming GDPR countdown. Setting GDPR aside though, the real spring story and one that definitely looks like there’s more to come, is the government’s February response to the Work and Pensions Select Committee’s report ‘Protecting pensions against scams: priorities for the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill.’
Cold calling ban
It’s gratifying to see that the government is in agreement with the committee and the industry about the need to address the threat posed by pension scams, by cutting off scamming activity at the source to disrupt criminals and protect savers.
As the usual first line of defence against an incredibly persistent and inventive wave of pension scammers and ‘circumventors’, administrators take the brunt of the scammers’ efforts. These ‘advisors’ routinely trot out an escalating litany of threats and intimidation aimed at the administrator, usually along the lines of, ‘just wait til the member, the trustees, the employer, your employer, the Ombudsman, the FCA, the press etc., find out you’ve been delaying this entirely legitimate transfer request…’ Experienced administrators understand the intention is to ramp up the pressure until it’s just easier to let the transfer go ahead than to stick to the due diligence guns. To members though, these incredibly persuasive professional scammers must come across as experts who can make things happen by refusing to take no for an answer.
The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has confirmed that it has launched a joint investigation with the police into a number of pension schemes suspected of being linked to cold calling, sending a clear and direct message that: “Cold calling pension holders isn’t illegal yet, but no reputable business does it. We would urge anyone to contact Action Fraud if they are phoned and offered the chance to transfer their pension. TPR’s message is simple; a cold call about your pension is an attempt to steal your savings.”