TTF Blog: 27 July 2020

Building the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pension Scams

by Alex Varley-Winter, TTF’s Head of Media Relations and Investigative Reporting

A new alliance is forming in Westminster against an ‘epidemic’ of devastating scams that are thought to have stripped up to £10bn from people’s hard-earned pension pots. Furthermore, people being targeted in scams increased during lockdown. Last week we prepared the ground for a dedicated All-Party Parliamentary Group on Pension Scams at a meeting between MPs, industry reps and victims. The Group’s inaugural meeting is scheduled for 7 September, and we hope it will serve as a touchstone for meaningful change.

We have been ‘chipping away steadily’ against pension scams since 2017, and have been urging concerned MPs to probe the issue. Forming a dedicated Parliamentary Group is one outcome of those efforts. Andy Agathangelou, TTF’s Founder, 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.”

The pensions industry is ‘the biggest loser’ if it can’t beat scammers, said Bob Blackman — one of the MPs involved — at last week’s meeting about the formation of the APPG: “We need to build up a database, make sure people are aware of scammers and get the pensions industry to front this.”

Susan Flood personally lost £150,000 as a result of a pension scam that was described in Parliament as a ‘fraud on the trustees’ powers’ , elucidated in a High Court judgment as a form of ‘fraud on the power of investment’. She is one of the victims who is helping to propel the APPG’s formation and  sits -voluntarily- on the TTF’s Advisory Board: “For me as a victim, and others, TTF gave hope, an opportunity and a voice, in places where that was not being listened to.” she says. “The majority of victims I’ve spoken to have been in this situation for ten years.”

Sue told attendees at last week’s meeting that regulators have been ignoring victims’ experiences for too long

“The major point here is that for many, many years victims have been treated as the criminals,” she said. “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.”

We later asked Sue if it is known how many people have lost part or all of their pension pot? She said: “I’m not sure how many people [it] equates to, but it was £10billion losses when Tom Kelly looked into it. There are a lot of people suffering in silence, too, because they’re just so embarrassed.”

Sue feels that the ‘torture’ victims experience is still widely misunderstood, instead the system appears to her to be imposing more pain on the victims. “We’re all still facing tax tribunals … You can see many counsellors and they will all encourage you to ‘move on’ but unfortunately you can’t, because there’s this dark cloud hanging over you: when HMRC’s brown envelopes come through to remind you, which is generally at Christmas, it’s extremely daunting and a bit terrifying, to be honest.”

Susan Flood, of the Ark Pension Scam Group

“Why don’t Pension Scam victims get support?” 

The scam she fell victim to cost Sue an impressive sum of £150k that she had gradually saved over the years – her entire pension pot at the time. It concerns her deeply that, including all the other pension scam victims she has met, ‘not one of us has been offered Victim Support’.

“If you or I walked out of here and we had our handbags stolen, we’d be offered Victim Support,” she points out. Losing one’s pension ‘has a bizarre effect’: “It’s quite devastating… When you’ve diligently saved for your old age, and you put money away.”

“In my job, personally, I did twelve hour shifts, I did a lot of overtime and I made sure I was getting what was a reasonable pension pot. … 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 [are] taken away. The stability that you had, is taken. You’ve got nobody there to assist you.”

Joining the All-Party Group on Pension Scams

So far, twelve parliamentarians have stepped forward to be part of the APPG on Pension Scams:

Jonathan Reynolds, Lab-Co-op MP for Stalybridge and Hyde and the Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions 

Bob Blackman – Conservative MP for Harrow East

Jack Dromey, Labour MP for Birmingham Erdington

Harriet Baldwin,  Conservative MP for West Worcestershire

Nick Smith, Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent

Yvonne Fovargue, Labour MP for Makerfield 

Christina Rees, Labour MP for Neith 

Henry Smith, Conservative MP for Crawley

Lord Balfe, Conservative peer  

Baroness Crawley, Labour peer

Baroness Bowles, Lib Dem peer 

Lord Harris, Labour peer 

Volunteers are also being sought for the APPG’s Secretariat. What the Group does will be decided by the MPs that run it, but some project ideas that have already been floated 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, helping to compile a Guide for the victims of pension scams.

Press Timeline of relevant articles:

29 Dec 2019‘Lambs to the slaughter’: Tens of thousands of savers have lost up to £10billion in rogue pensions schemes …, by Tom Kelly, Investigations Editor for the Daily Mail

22 Jun 2020– MPs to undertake detailed work on pension scams  by Michael Klimes for MoneyMarketing

26 Jun 2020 POLL – Should MPs launch an Inquiry on Pension Scams? & MPs Urged to Start Inquiry on Pension Scams by Justin Cash for MoneyMarketing

29 Jun 2020Lawmakers Urged To Open Inquiry Into Pension Scams by Martin Croucher for Law 360

29 Jun 2020 – MPs Pushed to Launch Pension Scam Inquiry by Amy Austin for FT Adviser

20 Jul 2020 Campaigners Aim to Create Pension Scam Database by Michael Klimes & Government eyes unauthorised firms in new financial promotions rules by Justin Cash for MoneyMarketing

22 Jul 2020Missed Opportunity to Use Victims in Scam Work by Amy Austin for FT Adviser

22 Jul 2020Pension scams increase amid lockdown; investment fraud remains prominent threat by Sophie Smith for Pensions Age