Action needed after 37% targeted by scams since lockdown began - AJ Bell

More than a third (37 per cent) of UK adults think they have been targeted by scams since lockdown, leading AJ Bell to identify five ways the authorities can take on pension fraudsters.

Research from the investment platform found that those who had recently gained access to pension savings were at higher risk of contact with scammers, with almost half (45 per cent) of those aged between 55 and 64 believing they had been targeted since March.

AJ Bell senior analyst, Tom Selby, said the pandemic had been “like blood in the water for scammers”, leading to a “huge proportion” of UK adults believing they had been targets.

Consequently, AJ Bell has called for the broadening of the ban on pensions cold-calling to cover all varieties of investments, as well as making contact using social media, emails and texts.

The company said the measures should also go as far as targeting ‘factory gating’, a situation where lead generators meet prospective clients in person and make the introductions to unscrupulous financial advisers.

AJ Bell also called for the investigation of one-off scams by Action Fraud, improved information sharing between different companies, tightened transfer regulations, and regular reviews of pension scam tactics by the authorities and pensions industry.

The company highlighted this last measure due to claims that the regulatory focus is on a narrow range of scams and it is easy for scammers to evolve these into other areas to avoid detection.

Selby said: “Over a fifth of people have already been made financially worse off during Covid-19 and as the government prepares to end the furlough scheme, millions more people will face the prospect of unemployment, losing their main source of income and staring down the barrel of serious financial hardship.

“Such turmoil will inevitably see more people targeted by scammers, with their hard-earned retirement pots likely to be a prime focus. In this environment it is absolutely vital policymakers, enforcement agencies and the wider pensions industry redouble efforts to tackle the scourge of fraud.

“While clearly the priority for government is dealing with the second spike of the pandemic, it is also important to ensure a protective ring is placed around vulnerable savers.”

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