TPR facing budgetary constraints on ScamSmart work

Doubt has been cast over whether The Pensions Regulator (TPR) remains the most appropriate partner to support the consumer-facing ScamSmart campaign, amid budgetary and resource constraints.

TPR's response to the Work and Pensions Committee’s inquiry into pension scams confirmed that the total spend between 2018 and 2020 on the Scam Smart campaign was £5.2m.

However, TPR acknowledged that it did not have the budget to co-fund the campaign during 2020, with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) therefore required to progress the initiative through its own website and social media channels only, with support from Project Bloom.

“We are in the same position in the current financial year, and it falls to FCA to progress, with support from TPR and Project Bloom partners through our no-cost communication channels only,” TPR executive director of frontline regulation, Nicola Parish, continued.

“For TPR to continue to support ScamSmart as it has over the past few years, more resource and, more importantly, funding is needed.”

This was echoed in the FCA’s response, which warned that "consideration is needed as to whether TPR remains the most appropriate partner to support the ScamSmart campaign, which is consumer-facing".

In addition to budgetary constraints, the FCA noted that over the three years of running the consumer facing ScamSmart campaign, TPR has evolved its proposition and shifted its focus to its Pledge to Combat Pension Scams campaign, centring on TPR’s regulated audience.

Despite the concerns, TPR emphasised that it has a “close working relationship with FCA” and that, together with other Bloom partners, supports the promotion of both consumer-facing and industry-facing campaigns.

The FCA’s response also stated: “TPR and FCA will continue to have a close working relationship with Project Bloom partners, including TPR, to support the promotion of both the consumer-facing and industry-facing pension scams campaigns.”

Furthermore, TPR confirmed that, alongside the FCA, it was considering further communications about the risks of secondary scams and recovery fraud to help protect pension savers.

In addition to this, the government's inquiry response confirmed that the regulator’s next burst of paid-for activity, focusing on the pledge and the pensions industry, is scheduled for September.

Commenting in response to the concerns, a TPR spokesperson stated: “Education remains one of our strongest tools in the battle against pension fraudsters.

“TPR will maintain its close working relationship with the FCA and other partners in the multiagency scam-fighting group Project Bloom, which will continue to support the promotion of the consumer-facing and industry-facing campaigns.

“The multimillion ScamSmart campaign by TPR and the FCA has been a success in helping savers to get to know the warning signs of a scam and driving more than one million visits to the ScamSmart website.

“Over the three years of running the consumer-facing ScamSmart campaign, TPR has shifted its focus to its Pledge to Combat Pension Scams campaign.

“The pledge centres on those running pension schemes and focuses resources on improving areas such as member communication, reporting suspected scams, and due diligence on transfer requests.”

TPR had supported the ScamSmart campaign financially in 2018 and 2019.

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