BLOG: Crime in pensions - prevention is the aim

Written by Adam Cadle
01/04/2016

The issue of national and international security is of great interest to me. I find the ways in which governments and nations strategically develop ways to combat the threats of this world fascinating and it is always a pleasure to hear of success stories. This can involve areas such as cybercrime, financial intelligence threats and also threats to national and global security.

But of course, there are times when one genuinely starts to believe that the method of prevention can be the only defence, as it becomes practically impossible to completely eradicate all threats.

Take the current issue of ISIS for example – or Daesh, whatever you want to call the group – I’m not sure anyone fully knows how to stop their terrorist attacks across the world. How can one contain the lone wolf attacks occurring across the globe and the splinter cells sporadically appearing across Europe?

Whilst it would be absolutely ludicrous to compare the world of pensions to that of terrorism, one can certainly draw a link here. Those criminals targeting the pensions industry with pension scams are aiming to cause as much confusion, chaos and downright criminality as possible. We can work to prevent this crime from occurring, as the industry is doing so valiantly at the moment, but can we completely erase these threats? I’m not so sure.

Yesterday I wrote an article covering research from Citizens Advice, which showed that nearly nine in 10 people are failing to spot the common warning signs of a pension scam, and a total of 10.9 million people received unsolicited contact about a pension since last April.

The government created ‘Project Bloom’, a joint force led by the National Crime Agency to tackle pension liberation scams, and I am fully behind this, but the levels of sophistication among criminals these days is advancing too rapidly. Defence resources are stretched as it is, so prevention can only be the ultimate aim.

In a different area, industry bodies are now preparing to put in place tough rules, restrictions and penalties for employers trying to tempt employees out of a workplace pension into Chancellor George Osborne’s new Lifetime ISA savings vehicle. Encouraging employees out of a workplace pension is a criminal offence, but I can guarantee this won’t stop certain employers, especially if it means balancing their books.

Whilst I genuinely believe Osborne’s freedom and choice reforms are good for savers (an individual should be able to make their own decision and have their own responsibility as to when they need to access their savings as cash), I am also of the opinion that the Chancellor has also in turn increased the problem around scams and inducements.

The government should absolutely continue to do all it can in its crime prevention methods to enhance the security of the pensions industry and savers themselves, but to completely eradicate the threat altogether? I don’t believe that this can be done.

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