One in 12 pension transfers potentially a scam

Scammers could be involved in one in 12 pension transfer requests, according to data from consultancy firm Xafinity.

Of the transfer requests that Xafinity has examined on behalf of its pension scheme clients over the last year, it found signs of scam activity in 8.3 per cent.

The firm decline to disclose the total number of transfers analysed during the period.

Xafinity is a UK specialist in pensions actuarial, consulting and administration, providing advisory and compliance services to more than 550 pension scheme clients.

The number of scams, however, has decreased from last year, when possible fraud was found in 11 per cent of transfers.

The most common flag for potentially fraudulent transfers, in 33 per cent of scam cases identified, is the involvement of unauthorised advisers or introducers in the transfer process.

According to Jackie Warwick, head of Xafinity’s pension scam identification unit, in many cases the members had no contact with the financial adviser who signed off the transfer discharge to the trustees.

She said: “When a member realises that they have effectively been ‘advised’ by someone they have never spoken to, they often decide for themselves that something is wrong and therefore choose not to proceed with the transfer.”

The second most common reason, with 20 per cent of scams identified, was cold calling.

However, this is not the only route being used to extract pension money from consumers, Ms Warwick said.

Although a ban on cold calling will be welcomed by the industry, it will only push the unscrupulous scammers to other means, she added.

The introduction of a ban on cold-callers who try to scam people out of their pension savings, which will include emails and texts, was announced on 21 August.

This proposal was previously dropped in April due to the general election.

At the time of the announcement, the government said the legislation to deliver the ban would be brought forward when parliamentary time allows.

According to Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell, “this is yet more evidence, if it were needed, that the proposed crackdown on pension scams must be introduced as a matter of urgency”.

He said: “The fact a fifth of scams result from a cold call shows just why introducing a ban is absolutely crucial, and the government now needs to step up to the plate and protect savers from these fraudsters”.

Steve Carlson, a chartered financial planner at Cardiff-based Carlson Wealth Management, said pension scams are still a problem “mainly because people get swamped with paperwork they do not understand”.

He said: “Page seven of the Scorpion Leaflet that providers send out often does not get read as it is too long and is sent out with all the transfer paperwork. 

“Less is more, so sending the second page of the leaflet The Pensions Regulator has produced on its own, whenever someone requests a pension transfer, may alert more people to the potential that they are being scammed.”

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