UK regulator: Websites carrying anti-scam messages ‘could be frauds’
“Rogue” pension websites are carrying anti-scam messages, in an effort to try to trick consumers into believing that they are legitimate businesses, The UK’s Pensions Regulator (TPR) has warned.
The warning came as the regulator said it was welcoming new measures to ban cold-calling that it says “will help to prevent potential victims from being stripped of their savings by fraudsters”.
TPR said it is concerned that the scam websites are targeting helpless pension savers, or those will limited knowledge of pensions.
As reported, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has announced plans to legislate for a ban on cold-calling UK citizens to entice them to invest in pension products, as well as tighter rules to prevent the opening of new fraudulent pension schemes, and new restrictions it says will help to prevent transfers into such investment scams.
The DWP’s proposals immediately drew criticism from some experts, including, as reported here last month, Angie Brooks, the founder of a pension scam campaign and support group Pension Life. According to Brooks, while the UK government’s move to ban cold calling, including emails and texts, is to be welcomed, longer criminal sentences need to be handed out, or scammers will continue to operate outside of regulatory rules, regardless of government bans.
She also warned that pension scammers are increasingly moving their cold-calling operations outside of the UK, where the labour is cheap and their activities are harder to detect.
Separately, some victims of scams, including one known as Stephen, said the government’s measures would not have stopped them from being targeted and their savings “stolen”.
Project Bloom materials
In a statement on its website, the Pension Regulator noted that one of the tactics fraudsters have been found to be using recently involves using anti-scam campaign material without consent from multi-agency taskforce Project Bloom, which, it notes, enables them to seem legitimate.
Project Bloom was a TPR-led scheme that was created in 2015 to tackle pension scams, by bringing together the DWP, HM Treasury, the Financial Conduct Authority, HM Revenue & Customs, the Serious Fraud Office, the City of London Police, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, The Pensions Advisory Service, and the National Crime Agency.
“Some [of these fraudulent websites] even imply they are regulated by carrying warning messages designed to prevent people falling victim to scams, such as making reference to the tax implications over accessing your pension before the age of 55, and the danger of cold-callers,” the TPR said.
TPR Chief Executive Lesley Titcomb said: “These sites are wolves in sheep’s clothing, lying in wait for unsuspecting victims by portraying themselves as being beyond reproach.
“The truth is that this next generation of scam sites poses a real threat to people’s financial futures and should be avoided.
“We welcome the Government’s tough new measures, which will strike a significant blow to pension scammers who devastate people’s lives by duping them out of their life savings.
“We are working closely with government, enforcement agencies and key financial service bodies to bring scammers to justice and, through our scorpion campaign, to help the public protect themselves from scams.”