Fraudsters 'thriving' as pandemic scam losses top £5m

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has warned that scammers “thrive” in the current pandemic environment after figures from ActionFraud showed £5.1m has been lost to fraud since February.

An article from the Press Association noted that pension scams, where savers are convinced to transfer their pots to criminals, are among the most common Covid-19 scams people have been targeted with during the pandemic.

The report stated that more than 11,000 coronavirus-related scams had been brought to the attention of ActionFraud since lockdown began.

Responding, TPR chief executive, Charles Counsell, said: “These figures once again show the true devastation of scams. We know, on average, victims of pension scams lose £82,000.

"Anyone can be a victim and Covid-19 has created the sort of environment fraudsters thrive in. That’s why it’s vital savers don’t rush decisions about their retirement funds.”

He called on savers to access “free and impartial advice about their finances from The Money and Pensions Service” in order to avoid making the wrong decisions, while also urging people to head to the ScamSmart website so they can “learn how to protect themselves”.

AJ Bell senior analyst, Tom Selby, commented: “Given the profound economic and social uncertainty created by Covid-19, it was inevitable unscrupulous scammers would attempt to take advantage of the situation, leaving misery and destruction in their wake.

“Pensions remain an obvious target for fraudsters, so savers need to be alive to the common tactics these people use to pilfer their hard-earned retirement funds.”

He pointed to AJ Bell research that has found one in eight pension holders under the age of 55 would consider an ‘early access’ pension offer, while one in 10 said they would consider accepting a call from someone they don’t know about their retirement pot.

“The apparent hubris about the dangers of scams leaves the door open to fraudsters to take advantage, particularly during a period of such extreme uncertainty. Ultimately it is down to individual savers to get wise to scammers’ tactics and protect themselves so they don’t become the next victim,” said Selby.

The People’s Pension director of policy, Gregg McClymont, said: “Pensions fraud takes many forms so it’s important that the public is alive to the very real risk that ruthless criminals will try anything to get their hands on their retirement pots.

“Savers should decline any unsolicited approach to access their pension pots early and should always seek professional advice before making any decisions about their pension savings.”

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