TPR ‘can do more’ to stop scams – Counsell admits

The Pensions Regulator CEO Charles Counsell has accepted that his organisation can do more to prevent scams, but said the regulator is "fighting back" against scammers.

Publishing a blog on TPR’s website, today, 9 August, Counsell highlighted the regulator’s latest public awareness campaign, launched earlier this week, to highlight the threat of scammers.

“It is shocking that five million people in the UK are at risk of being scammed, and that victims of pension fraud reported in 2018 that they had lost an average of £82,000,” he stated.

Counsell noted that the pension freedoms mean that it is “inevitable that scurrilous criminals hellbent on stealing people’s retirement pots are circling”. Rather than just “petty thieves”, Consell described them as “sophisticated fraudsters” that use clever tactics to appear legitimate.

“Victims of scams often don’t know they have been targeted until it is too late; too late for them to pull out of a dodgy deal and possibly too late for regulators and enforcement agencies to claw back lost money despite our best efforts. I have heard many heart-wrenching accounts of the impact of scams; from people losing their life savings, to others who tragically have taken their own lives. This has to stop,” he wrote.

He believes that through a joint effort, scammers can be beaten, and added that it is right that regulators, government and other agencies are held to account on the action we take to prevent scams and punish offenders.

“We are 100 per cent committed to taking firm action to hit scammers where it hurts – in their pockets,” he said.

He then went on the highlight the action the regulator has taken, such as using protection orders to force solicitors and banks to give information to support fraud and money-laundering investigations. TPR has also gone to court to have the assets of suspects frozen to prevent them spending money that it believes they have stolen from savers.

“We’ve worked with police forces, specialist anti-crime units, the Serious Fraud Office, the National Crime Agency and other agencies, like the Insolvency Service, to investigate organised crime gangs. We’ve executed search warrants to search businesses and the homes of suspects and have prosecuted those who have obstructed our investigations," he wrote.

“Earlier this year we secured our first immediate custodial sentence against a pension scheme trustee who stole more than £280,000 from the scheme. He won’t be the last.

“We accept we can do more, but we are fighting back.”

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