More than three quarters of UK adults who have a pension think pension companies should have powers to help prevent fraud

Nearly eight out of ten (78 per cent) retirement savers agree that pension providers should be able to stop a pension transfer if fraud is suspected, a new survey has revealed.

Research for The People’s Pension, conducted by YouGov, found that more than three quarters of those questioned (78 per cent) agreed that pension companies should be able to step in to stop a pension transfer if they believe it’s a scam. These findings come at the same time the government is being asked to consider including an amendment to the Pension Schemes Bill, which would enable pension companies and trustees to halt a transfer out of a scheme if it triggered any one of a number of ‘red flag’ warnings. Nearly half (49 per cent) of those surveyed strongly agreed that pension companies should be able to intervene in these cases.

Concerns have been raised that the coronavirus pandemic increases the risk that fraudsters will attempt to deprive savers of their retirement savings and the survey found that one in five (20 per cent) UK adults with a pension are now more worried about being a victim of a pension scam compared to a year ago. The same poll also showed that just over a third (34 per cent) of UK adults are more worried about being a victim of some sort of financial scam now compared to 12 months ago.

Phil Brown, director of policy at The People’s Pension, says: “The overwhelming consensus from the general public is that pension companies should be given the legal power to put the brakes on a transfer they think might by fraudulent. As it stands, providers and trustees can merely advise a customer when their suspicions are aroused and our research shows that GBP31 million of transfers went ahead last year even after the savers were made aware of the concerns. The industry needs the support of policy makers if it’s to win the war against merciless fraudsters.”

On Thursday, 12 November, former pensions minister Baroness Ros Altmann will chair a webinar – Who is protecting my pensions? – to discuss what can be done to stop fraudsters. She will be joined on the panel by Phil Brown, Margaret Snowdon, the chair of the Pensions Scams Industry Group (PSIG) and Stephen Timms MP, the chair of Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee. Mr Timms proposed amendments to the Bill which would hand greater powers to trustees and although those were formally withdrawn at committee stage last week, the Government has committed to cross-party talks on the issue ahead of 16 November, when the Bill reaches its final stages.

In September The People’s Pension and The Police Foundation published Protecting People’s Pensions: Understanding and Preventing Scams, which called for urgent and decisive action to be taken by the authorities to stop criminals from the stealing the life savings of workers.