Shining a light on pension scams

by Alex Varley-Winter

This week the Transparency Task Force has been shining a light on pension scams, as we have been for a while. On Monday we hosted a Symposium anticipating the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Pension Scams that will launch on 7th September by Zoom.

Bob Blackman MP commented at the event that the pensions industry is ‘the biggest loser’ if they do not grapple with scammers and: “We need to build up a database, make sure people are aware of scammers and get the pensions industry to front this.”

What the APPG does will be determined by the MPs that will run it, but Andy Agathangelou, TTF’s Founder, said that some typica assignments for the APPG’s ‘secretariat’ might include: A Question Bank to identify the questions that need to be asked and who of; A database of pension scams; Outreach to other organisations within the Pensions industry; Networks for the Parliamentarians to use; and a guide ‘What do you need to do if you have become a pension scam victim?’

The APPG already has at least twelve Parliamentarians (MPs and Lords, cross-party) currently signed up to run its enquiries.

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Sue Flood, who lost £125,000 in a pension scam deemed to be a ‘fraud on the trustees’ powers’ , sits on our Advisory Board. She also addressed this week’s Symposium about the APPG: “The major point here is that for many, many years victims have been treated as the criminals. … I think it’s vital that the parliamentary representatives understand the criminal element and the organised crime that underlies this. … The majority of people that I’ve spoken to, approximate losses go between £70k to £100k, they’re not small losses.”

She said afterwards that she thinks it is crucial that the Government consults victims’ groups in preventing what she calls ‘mis-selling’ in pensions: “I’ve spent a whole day with [a public sector agency] and they’ve never spent any time with someone like me before … the root of the issue is exactly people in my position.”

Sue added an extraordinary fact that, of all the pension scam victims she has met, even where they have worked closely with police: ‘not one of them have been offered Victim Support’:

“I can’t understand that. In simple terms because, if you or I walked out of here and we had our handbags stolen we’d be offered victim support. They’ve had their lives taken.”

“It has a bizarre effect it’s quite a devastating … when you’ve diligently saved for your old age, and you put money away. Me personally, I did 12 hour shifts, I did a lot of overtime and I made sure I was getting what was a reasonable pension pot. I did lots of different jobs in the BBC. … all light entertainment shows. Those were all overtime situations, and I put that money away in my pension. It isn’t some sort of windfall, it’s something you diligently save for.

“Those plans that you’ve made for your future are your future welfare … taken away. The stability that you had, is taken, you’ve got nobody there to assist you.”

I asked Sue how many people she thinks have been affected:

“The last count of lost pensions was £10 billion, I’m not sure how many people that equates to, but it was £10billion losses when Tom looked into it. There are a lot of people suffering in silence, too, because they’re just so embarrassed: I can recall going into [a watchdog] many years back and when I helped them with some of their campaigns. I can remember saying that I thought this was a tax free lump sum, I never ever wanted a loan, and they said ‘well you would say that wouldn’t you?’ I left with the other victim.”

“We’re all still facing tax tribunals … You can see as many counsellors in your life and they can say ‘move on’ but unfortunately you can’t, because there’s this dark cloud hanging over you: when the brown envelopes come through to remind you, which is generally at Christmas, it’s extremely daunting and a bit terrifying to be honest.”

TTF’s founder Andy Agathangelou explains: “The APPG should operate as a forum through which parliamentarians and other stakeholders can work together to:

– Better protect the public from the perils of pension scams and secondary scammers

– Give scam victims a representative collective voice

– Signpost victims to support

– Facilitate the development of preventative and supportive policy initiatives.”

MPs and Lords involved in the initiative so far are:

Bob Blackman MP – (Harrow East)

Jack Dromey MP (Birmingham Erdington)

Harriet Baldwin MP (West Worcestershire)

Nick Smith MP (Blaenau Gwent)

Yvonne Fovargue MP (Makerfield)

Christina Rees MP (Neith)

Henry Smith MP (Crawley)

Baroness Crawley

Jonathan Reynolds MP, Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions

Lord Balfe

Baroness Bowles

Lord Harris

Contact Alex Varley-Winter….



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