Less than 7% of pension scam reports passed to police for investigation in 2019

The government has been urged to include financial harms within the Online Harms Bill after a freedom of information (FOI) request revealed that just 6.6 per cent of pension scam reports were passed to the police for investigation in 2019. The FOI request from Quilter revealed that 26 cases of pension fraud were passed to the police for investigation in 2019, despite 394 reports to Action Fraud. Quilter explained that pension scams are “extremely complex” and require considerable police resources, meaning that Action Fraud and the investigatory agencies are forced to prioritise cases they believe can lead to a successful criminal justice outcome.

It stated that for “the vast majority” of pension scam cases, the chances of reaching this stage are “slim”. The same figures for 2020 so far showed that whilst 161 pension fraud reports have been received by Action Fraud, only 24 have been disseminated to the relevant police force for investigation following a review by National Fraud Reporting Intelligence Bureau (NFIB). Forming part of the provider’s response to the Work and Pensions Select Committee’s ongoing inquiry on protecting pension savers, Quilter has now called for new measures to be introduced to tackle some of the ways in which scammers target their victims online.

In particular, the provider urged the government to include scam adverts, fake websites and other financial harms within the scope of the Online Harms Bill, which is due to be introduced to parliament next year. It argued that in doing so, search engines and social media platforms would, for the first time, have a legally enforceable duty to remove suspected scammers and scam adverts immediately on notification and improve their due diligence process. Quilter head of retirement policy, Jon Greer, stated: “We are entering a period of considerable economic uncertainty, and one in which generating a decent return on your investments will be extremely challenging.

“This is the ideal environment for scammers to thrive and it is no surprise to see huge amounts of money still being lost each year at the hands of criminals. “The fact that it is so hard to investigate and prosecute pension scams is effectively handing pension scammers a get out of jail free card.” Geer emphasised that the legal deterrent “appears to be ineffective”, arguing that “more must be done” to prevent scammers from operating and cut the line of communication between scammers and their victims, namely search engines and social media.

He added: “Movement on the regulation of search engines and social media platforms has been painfully slow and the regulation has failed to keep up with the evolution of scammers.

“The government has a perfect opportunity to bring the regulation into the 21st century by including financial harms within scope of the forthcoming Online Harms Bill.

“In doing so, search engines and social media providers will be legally required to remove suspected scammers immediately on notification, and not allow them to operate in the first place, or face sanctions from the new regulator.”

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