Friday, 11 January 2019 08:53

Editor’s Comment: More to do on pension scams after ban

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Financial Planning Today Editor Kevin O'Donnell Financial Planning Today Editor Kevin O'Donnell

Crooks will always target pensions - that's a given - but that should not deter us from applauding the significant progress made this week in tackling scammers with a new law banning pension cold calling.

Some critics have said that because only voice calls are specifically covered, scammers will simply try different tactics. That will probably happen even though texts, social media and email are covered by other legislation. Even so the ban is still vital.

The important victory here is that despite the challenges of Brexit to deal with over the last two years the government has found the time to introduce important legislation banning pension cold calls, with a potential fine of £500,000 awaiting the culprits who continue to flout the law.

The other important point is that the pressure for the change has come to a large extent from the Financial Planning community with Financial Planner Darren Cooke of Red Circle leading the charge backed by many other influential people including Royal London's Sir Steve Webb and Baroness Ros Altmann. A pat on the back for them and all the other advisers and planners who backed the campaign.


I caught up with Darren earlier this week and he was chuffed by the new legislation but realistic that it wouldn't end scams overnight. For him the most important victories were that, after initially being sceptical, the government had listened and changed the law and secondly that the ban had received widespread publicity across the UK.

Consumers should "just hang up" when they receive a cold call, he said, and they now know they know that a cold call is wrong. If a large percentage of consumers just put the phone down on the cold callers that will be a step forward, he said.

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The sad fact is that pension scams are likely to get worse, not better. As Darren told me, he believes the most prone groups are not the over 60s but those aged 40 to 65 with decent pension pots and many are sophisticated investors. 

With billions in pension cash to steal, the bait for scammers to target these people is enormous.

The problem with pension cold calls is that they immediately put consumers on the back foot. People contacted to be offered a "free pension review" or the like will often believe they are getting something for nothing and who doesn't like bargain?

Sadly many succumb to the sales talk and are persuaded to transfer their pension pot to all sorts of nefarious and high risk schemes. An average scam victim loses £90,000 in the process.

Aggressive pension scams are likely to come increasingly from overseas in future or even door to door and it's really down to the industry to prevent them. Pension schemes and providers need to do their bit with better training of staff to prevent pension pots being transferred out for no good reason. Even if clients are insistent that they want to transfer the providers must put in place more robust safeguards to prevent criminals stealing the cash.

The safeguards at present are simply not good enough and too often high risk factors are overlooked.

But the ban is a step forward and, with greater vigilance, could make a major difference. It's not the end of the road but it is the start of a journey.


Kevin O’Donnell is editor of Financial Planning Today and a financial journalist with over 30 years of experience. He previously worked for the Financial Times Group and in daily and weekly newspapers. 

Follow @FPT_Kevin



Read 640 times Last modified on Friday, 11 January 2019 09:23
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