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Categorized | Insurance

New measures to stop fraudsters scamming UK pensioners

Posted on November 19, 2016

Cold calling of pension savers will be banned by the government in an attempt to stem the tide of fraud against savers unleashed by George Osborne’s shake-up of the pensions system.

Philip Hammond, the chancellor, will announce plans to make cold calling of pension savers illegal in his first Autumn Statement as part of a wider crackdown on scams.

Around 11m pensioners are being targeted annually by cold callers, according to official estimates, many of whom are scammed with offers promising unrealistic returns, such as the chance to invest in a new hotel in an exotic location.

Pension scams have been a growing concern for policymakers since Mr Osborne’s flagship changes to pension rules in April 2015 that gave millions of over-55s full freedom to cash in their cash, opening opportunities for fraud.

Almost £19m was lost to pension fraud in the first year of the pension freedoms, as over-55s cashed in around £6bn of their retirement savings.

Under the government’s plans, all cold calls where a business has no existing relationship with the individual will be forbidden.

Those includes scammers targeting people who inadvertently “opt in” to receiving third-party communications.

Enforcement action by the Information Commissioner’s Office could include fines of up to £500,000.

In addition, the government wants to give pension providers more power to block suspicious transfers and to make it harder for scammers to set up a pension plan to facilitate fraudulent transfers.

“A ban on cold calling is very good news,” said Mick McAteer, co-founder and co-director of the Financial Inclusion Centre, a think-tank.

“A ban goes part way to dealing with the risks created by the badly thought-through pension freedom reforms.”

The government is expected to outline further steps on its proposals in the 2017 Budget.