Pension holders are being targeted by sophisticated “fraudster families” trying to steal their savings, according to intelligence gathered in a scam-busting operation.
Project Bloom, which was set up in 2012 to tackle pension fraud, said organised crime groups led by married couples or families are running scams worth tens of millions of pounds.
Criminal investigations involving financial regulators, government agencies and police forces are ongoing into several gangs said to be involved in criminal behaviour.
In some cases, families have hired “professional enablers” - including rogue pension experts, accountants and trustees - to make the scams work.
Victims of pension scams lost an average of £91,000 each to fraudsters in 2017 but some have lost much more, according to Project Bloom. They reported receiving cold calls, offers of “free pension reviews” and promises that they would get high rates of return - all of which are key warning signs of scams.
A ban on pensions cold calling recently came into force and firms that break the rules could face penalties of up to half a million pounds.
Guy Opperman, Minister for Pensions and Financial Inclusion, said: “Scammers who siphon off savings built up over decades are the lowest of the low. We’re determined to put a stop to the misery these callous crooks inflict, which is why we’re supporting the work being done to stamp out pension theft.”
Project Bloom brings together the police, Government departments, agencies, financial regulators, and representatives of the pension industry.
The Pensions Scams Industry Group (PSIG), an industry initiative which is also part of Project Bloom, also reported that pension providers are identifying growing numbers of suspect transfer requests and are alerting members to what they believe could be scams.
Nicola Parish, TPR’s executive director of frontline regulation, said: “Working together, we can target those trying to plunder people’s pension pots and bring them to justice.”
Margaret Snowdon, chairman of PSIG, said: “We will continue to do everything we can to spot possible scams early so we can help consumers to avoid becoming victims.”
Those considering transferring their pension can visit www.fca.org.uk/ScamSmart for help to understand the signs of a scam.
People who think they have fallen victim to a scam can report it to Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk