APPG on pension scams aims to give a voice to victims

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Campaign group the Transparency Task Force is planning to initiate an All-Party Parliamentary Group focusing on pension scams and representing victims, as pensions fraud continues to blight the industry. 
 
The planned APPG aims for more joined-up thinking and better support for victims. Its draft purpose statement says it aims  
 
“to be a forum through which Parliamentarians and other stakeholders can work together to better protect the public from the perils of pension scams and secondary scammers; give scam victims a representative collective voice; signpost victims to support; and facilitate the development of preventative and supportive policy initiatives”. 
 
TTF founder Andy Agathangelou called pension scams “a festering sore on the face of the pensions industry” which inflict life-changing financial and emotional distress on victims and damage the reputation of the industry. 
 
“Our Anti-Scams Special Interest Group has been operating for over two years now and we have come to the simple conclusion that there needs to be more joined-up thinking amongst all relevant stakeholders; and that the scam victims need and deserve to be properly supported – they live through a nightmare that in many cases lasts for years,” said Agathangelou. 
   
“It’s going to take a great big team effort to help ensure the new APPG is as positively impactful as it has the potential to be,” he added. 
 
The group can only be formed after the general election on 12 December. 
 

Should trustees have a right to block transfers? 

 
Margaret Snowdon OBE, who chairs the Pension Scams Industry Group, said the APPG could bring all parties together to help fight against scams.   
 
She said that PSIG “has been a fairly lone voice since 2015” in showing providers how to effectively test for scams before a transfer takes place, but also in calling for legal changes to give trustees the power to say no to transfers and to provide support for victims.   
 
“Everyone needs to work together and the APPG will help as long as it takes action,” said Snowdon. 
 
Pension scheme members currently have a statutory right to transfer if they are earners. In a 2016 High Court case involving Royal London, which had sought to block a transfer from a personal to an occupational scheme it considered suspicious, the judge ruled that a transfer must be allowed even where the member is not an earner in respect of the receiving scheme. 
 
The ruling overturned an earlier Pensions Ombudsman decision and left trustees in limbo about their duties and ability to act when a transfer looks suspicious. 
 
The Pensions Regulator and the Financial Conduct Authority have devised a joint ScamSmart campaign to raise awareness of pension scams. 
 
Figures on the amount of money that has been extracted from pension scheme members are difficult to estimate, as many are yet to become aware that they have been defrauded given the long time horizon of pensions. The regulator said earlier this month that victims lost £82,000 on average last year. 
 
The TTF will hold an event in London on 3 December, where it will discuss ideas on how the new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pension Scams can help make a difference. mallowstreet members are welcome to get involved in the APPG and TTF (please connect with @andy agathangelou). 
 

What, in your view, is the most urgent measure that should be taken to fight scammers?