The Pensions Regulator should be granted the power to request the immediate suspension of pension liberation websites, an independent pensions advisory firm has warned.
Portal Financial said it believes an increasing number of people will turn to the internet for pensions advice without realising which websites are unregulated and which are not.
According to the firm, eighteen websites have already been suspended, which it says is a “significant” event for consumer rights and protection, but savers must continue to take steps to protect themselves as new websites can be created “within days”.
Last week, TPR announced it was clamping down on pension liberation due to stories of homelessness and suicide submitted by victims.
As part of its government awareness drive, TPR said it is refreshing its ‘Scorpion’ campaign material, which it is urging trustees to deliver to members to ensure they are aware of the devastation unregulated pension advice can cause.
According to Portal Financial, almost £500m has been removed from pension funds through pension liberation scams, which is an 18 per cent increase since the start of the year.
The firm’s managing director Jamie Smith-Thompson said advanced technology has created an environment in which fraud is easier to commit.
“[Further,] as The Pensions Regulator highlights, it can be highly lucrative with nearly half a billion pounds being reported as illegally invested,” she said.
“Policing and enforcement need to reflect the new environment, and The Pensions Regulator needs to have the power and support from the Internet Services Providers to act immediately.”
TPR said the known amount of funds paid into pension scams now stands at £495m in total, but it is expected to be higher when unreported activity is taken into account.