The new All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Pension Scams has had its inaugural meeting in parliament to outline its priorities for boosting public awareness around scam risks.
The meeting yesterday (16 March) saw former pensions minister Baroness Ros Altmann and Conservative peer Baroness Patience Wheatcroft join with other taskforce supporters including MPs and members of the public who have been victims of pension fraud.
Transparency Task Force founder Andy Agathangelou outlined the APPG's purpose as "to be a forum through which parliamentarians and other stakeholders can work together to better protect the public from the perils of pension scams and secondary scammers; give scam victims a representative collective voice; signpost victims to support; and facilitate the development of preventative and supportive policy initiatives."
The APPG labelled pension scams "a huge, complex and growing problem" with many thousands of pension savers having been duped into transferring pension savings into false arrangements.
Altmann said more than £10bn may have been lost to pension scammers thus far.
She added: ‘'As more people are forced to stay at home and investment markets have plunged, the risks of cold-calling criminals or online fraudsters reaching more savers and luring them into scam investments have grown.
"The government and regulators have been trying to deal with this problem for years, but it continues to worsen and this new APPG is being established to work together across political party lines, to find ways of protecting and warning the public about the ongoing risks they face."
Altmann added the improving "early warning systems" would be key to managing risk.
"It is vital to liaise between advisers, providers and regulators, so that more scams can be prevented," she said.
‘'The tactics used by these firms are geared to persuading people to transfer their money into ‘once-in-a-lifetime' investment opportunities, or high-return special pension funds, which sound bona fide and attractive. Unregulated firms often pretend to be regulated or pass on names to other firms who entice unsuspecting members of the public into transferring to bogus investments.
"The regulatory system has focused mostly on trying to catch the criminals after fraud has already occurred - but this takes such a long time that many more people have usually lost out by the time any action is taken.''
Altmann said the launch of the APPG was "a clarion call" to all those looking to get involved.
She said: "It is clear that there is a need for more and better thinking around what should be done to mitigate the risk of the UK's pension-saving public falling prey to sophisticated scammers; and also to help those that have been scammed.
"We're looking to tackle a huge problem head-on and a coordinated team-effort is going to be needed. We therefore hope the entire pensions, investment, legal and civil society sectors get right behind this initiative because it is in everybody's interest to shut the scammers down; we need to stop it becoming a national disgrace."
Pensions and financial inclusion minister Guy Opperman has warned schemes who do not have their data organised to the standard required for the pensions dashboard will face “draconian penalties.”
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