The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) opened 521 enquiries into unauthorised firms in the 12 months to the end of last November, resulting in 16 full investigations into suspected firms.
In its eigth data bulletin, the regulator said it had received 11,650 enquries from consumers between 1 December 2015 and 30 November 2016 relating to scams. This represents 13% of all consumer contact with the regulator.
A total of 8,277 of those reports from consumers related to potential unauthorised activity in the period, which led to the subsequent 521 enquiries and 16 investigations. The regulator said it resolved 156 matters through correspondence with firms.
Where cases led to court action, however, the FCA revealed plans to return £1.9m worth of funds to out-of-pocket investors. Confiscation and restraint orders have also been made to the value of £2.7m.
Investigations resulting in court actions have also led to a total of 32 years and nine months in prison sentences, the regulator said.
Who's at risk?
The financial watchdog has warned older people are being targeted more frequently than others. It said more than half of the scam-related enquiries it received were from over-55s.
Following pressure from the industry, the government took matters into its own hands last year by opening a consultation on banning pension cold-callers. It said it wanted the ban to have a "wide-scope" to prevent it being circumvented by firms adapting their business models to avoid the measures.
The Financial Ombudsman Service, on the other hand, has recently warned of youngsters being used as money mules. It said many under-30s are being targeted by criminals trying to launder money through their bank accounts.
Aegon head of pensions Kate Smith said: "Last year 11,650 people contacted the FCA helpline to report actual or potential scams, representing 13% of all calls received. This is probably just the tip of the iceberg, but it's encouraging people seem to be more alert about the potential of scams and seek help before the fraudsters get their hands on people's money."
She added: "Government, regulators and the pension industry need to continue to work together to ensure this momentum accelerates to raise awareness and combat scams."
The chairman isn’t answering his email
Reforms not enough
An economic cocktail
To encourage consumers to shop around
Will report to Pat Shea