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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Measures to tackle pension cold-calling announced

The UK government announced yesterday that it would ban cold-calls and tighten protections against transfers to fraudulent schemes.

cold calling ban / shutterstock
Cold calling ban ©Shutterstock

It is hoped that this “two-pronged” attack on scammers will not only put a hurdle in the way in which fraudsters contact would be retirees, but will also limit their options in getting access to savings.

Former pensions minister, Baroness Ros Altmann, said: “The government has bowed to the overwhelming pressure from politicians, consumer groups and the pensions industry to urgently introduce a ban on pensions cold-calling.

“This is great news. It is also going to toughen rules on transfers out of occupational schemes and tighten HMRC requirements that will make it much more difficult to set up fraudulent schemes.”

Yesterday’s announcement means that only companies that produce regular accounts will be approved as pension schemes.

Trustees of occupational pensions will then be required to check that receiving schemes are regulated by the FCA, or are authorised as master trusts, or have a clear employment link.

This comes after research by Xafinity Consulting found that fraudsters could have been behind 11% of the 30,000 defined contribution scheme transfers in 2015/16, which represented £1bn in assets.

Additional research by the Money Advice Service has shown there could be up to eight scam calls made every second – the equivalent of 250 million a year – as individuals take advantage of pension freedoms introduced in 2015.

Since then, there has been an increase in opportunistic callers offering highly risky or spurious investment opportunities, which often begin with the promise of access to savings below the age of 55, or ‘free’ pension reviews.

Hargreaves Lansdown senior pension analyst, Nathan Long, says that clamping down on calls, texts and e-mails won’t stop the scammers completely, but sends a “loud and clear message” for people to be on guard if contacted out of the blue.

“The golden rule with pension planning is if something appears too good to be true, it almost certainly is,” he added.

“Making pension schemes harder to set up and ensuring transfers only proceed to appropriately regulated schemes will all help to blunt the damage that scammers can inflict moving forward, but pension savers must remain vigilant.”

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