Pension scammers pretend to be regulator

I was appalled to read recently that some scammers were actually posing as staff of the regulator for pensions.

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has that warned fraudsters are targeting people with cold-calls pretending to come from the regulator.  The Pensions Regulator said it has received reports of pension holders being cold-called by individuals who posed as the watchdog’s staff and offered the workers a free pension review.  The regulator stated it never cold calls people about their pensions and free reviews could often be a warning sign of a scam.

The regulator has so far referred two cases to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for investigation and Mike Broomfield, The Pension Regulator’s head of intelligence, said: “We are grateful to those people who have alerted us to the cold calls.   “We’ve now referred the cases to the ICO to consider and would urge anyone else who is contacted to call Action Fraud.  “Like all reputable organisations, we never cold call people about their pensions. If anyone cold calls you about your pension, it is an attempt to steal your savings. Just hang up.”

The Pensions Regulator said neither of the individuals who contacted it about the bogus calls were tricked into handing over their details or cash.  However, as only a minority of scam attempts are ever reported, many more people who have not yet come forward may have been approached by the cold callers, it added.

Pension cold-calling ban to be in place ‘by June’

A ban on pension cold-calling will be put into law by June this year after the government introduced amendments to the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill.

The Bill, due to reach the House of Commons report stage on Monday 12 March, now includes a cold-calling ban and pension guidance provision.

The Work and Pensions Committeesaid the amendments brought the Bill into line with its recommendations designed to protect pensioners against scams and boost the take-up of free independent pensions guidance

Committee chair Frank Field said: “The government is now almost there, within spitting distance of what the committee proposed. I am delighted that they will be bringing forward a ban on pensions cold calling by June, as we called for.

“This represents a major leap forward in the urgent fight to protect pensioners’ savings against scams and sharp practice.”

He added: “On pension guidance, the government has moved much closer to the committee’s aspiration that the taking of independent expert guidance should be the default course of action when accessing a pension pot.

“The government can now give even greater reassurance by explicitly specifying on the face of the Bill, rather than in an explanatory memo, that the public guidance body will be the sole source of the ‘appropriate pensions guidance’.

“Guidance must come from independent and impartial experts, rather than from self-interested pension providers, if individuals are to make the best use of their savings.”

Expert guidance

Under the amendments, pension schemes will be required to ensure people seeking to access their pension are “referred to appropriate pensions guidance” and “has either received appropriate pensions guidance or has opted out of receiving such guidance”.

No reference to independent financial advice is included in the amendments, however.

The Work and Pensions Committee said it was “to ensure that clients are to be directed towards the independent guidance service”.

It added: “The explanatory statement to these amendments indicates the government’s intention that this guidance will be provided by the new Single Financial Guidance Body.”

An additional amendment makes it clear that the FCA’s rules should make provision about how individuals are to indicate that they have received guidance or expressly opted out.


The above is a copy of an Article from “Professional Adviser” dated 6th March 2018


Suspect pension advisers to be named on watch list

Excellent news:-

Firms and advisers arousing industry suspicions of wrongdoing will be placed on a semi-secret watch list to warn businesses considering working with them.  The Pensions Administration Standards Association (PASA) is working on a closed list with names of pensions schemes and advisers that have been flagged up as potential scammers, to be shared among pension scheme trustees and providers.

Margaret Snowdon, chairman of the association, said the goal of the list isn’t to stop any pension transfers, but to raise awareness among trustees and providers when a name in the list pops up, so they can increase their due diligence.  She said: “Some providers and trustees have their own watch list. What we are looking for is to create a closed network where they can share this information.”  Ms Snowdon is currently in talks with the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, the Financial Conduct Authority, The Pensions Regulator, HM Revenue & Customs and the Pensions Ombudsman to involve them in the creation of the list, which she expects to be launched by the end of the year.

However, details such as how the information will be shared, who will be in charge of the list or how potential legal implications will be avoided are still being discussed, she added.  We understand that the FCA is aware of the creation of this list but it’s not involved in these discussions at this time.

Several industry experts, however, have raised concerns about the efficiency of such watch list.  Steve Webb, director of policy at Royal London and former pensions minister, said: “As a provider, and particularly as a member-owned business, we are very keen to explore ways in which we can better protect our members’ money at the point of transfer.  The idea of a list of receiving schemes where concerns have been raised is an interesting one which should be explored, but it would be likely to raise considerable practical and legal difficulties”.

Yes, we agree, but it is vitally important to protect the public from unscrupulous, individuals who give those of us who give good, solid advice a bad name.

Don’t request pension transfer values before speaking to a financial adviser.

A number of cautionary notes have been flagged up in the Technical Press warning members of Defined Benefit Pension Schemes (Final Salary Schemes) not to request pension transfer values before speaking to a financial adviser.

Members of Schemes are being warned that there is a risk that individuals “get blindsided by a big number” when they get a cash equivalent transfer value (CETV) from their defined benefit (DB) scheme.

The advice is, “The first thing they should do is to talk to a financial adviser to see if a transfer is appropriate for their situation.”

Following the introduction of pension freedoms in 2015, the volume of defined benefit pension transfers has been soaring, as savers seek to take advantage of sky-high transfer values and move their nest eggs into defined contribution schemes in order to access their cash.

Figures published last year by Mercer, the Pension Administrators,  showed that as much as £50 billion has been pulled from Final Salary Pension Schemes in the previous two years.

Transfer is not always the best option.  Beware!