Pension scammers biding their time, ombudsman warns

Pension fraudsters are playing the long game when it comes to scamming members, The Pensions Ombudsman (TPO) has warned.

Speaking at the Pensions Management Institute Trustee Workbench today, 6 June, TPO CEO, Anthony Arter, said that the slow down in scamming complaints was largely down to scammers “thinking longer term”.

In January, the cold calling ban made it illegal for any member of the public to receive unsolicited calls about their pension, however, it is believed many may have started to use more sophisticated techniques.

“Two years ago they were going through the roof, suddenly I get very few scamming complaints. Why am I getting so fewer? Is it cold calling legislation? I don’t think it is. Is it trustees taking more care over transfers? No,” Arter said.

“I think it is the fraudsters who have changed their game. I think they are thinking of the longer term, they keep people happy in the short term, they transfer their money, pay the odd amount and keep them informed.

“Then it’s several years down the track that they realise the whole thing was a scam. I think they are just being cleverer about the way they are going about it.”

According to Action Fraud, almost £200m was lost to scammers in 2018, and evidence from Telegraph Money suggests that scammers are getting around the cold calling ban by moving online.

In addition to the warning around scams, Arter delivered advice for trustees and providers on how to handle complaints to ensure a swift and easy resolution.

“It’s all about the way you communicate with your members, if a mistake has been made, admit it at the earliest opportunity, and apologise, that’s what people want first and foremost,” he said.

“We all make them, we are all human. The public are ofter lost in the complicated world of pensions, particularly your members. Simply it for them as much as possible, and if somebody doesn’t understand their benefit, which is quite often the case, you have to talk it through with them in plain language.

“I know that’s very difficult for large schemes, but the more you manage that the less likely there will be a complaint going forward, it will save you time, resource and your reputation.”

On average, the TPO upholds 29 per cent of its cases, which Arter said had “remained stable” for some time.

According to TPO, most of its complaints are around trustees or providers failing to provide information, followed by transfers and incorrect benefit calculations.

The ombudsman outlined areas in which it was improving the customer journey, including the addition of 240 volunteers to help with case loads, as well as moving towards a system that allows people to follow their complaint online.

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