Organized crime gangs made up of married couples and families are scamming pensioners out of millions of pounds, according to The Pensions Regulator (TPR), and Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting center for fraud and cybercrime.
UK police, regulators, and government are conducting criminal investigations into pension fraud where family ties are a common theme. TPR said that since the cases are ongoing, it can’t provide further details, but it did reveal that it has evidence of criminal behavior worth tens of millions of pounds involving siblings, married couples, and parents with their adult children.
“Scammers who siphon off savings built up over decades are the lowest of the low,” Guy Opperman, the UK’s minister for Pensions and Financial Inclusion, said in a statement. “We’re determined to put a stop to the misery these callous crooks inflict, which is why we’re supporting the work being done to stamp out pension theft.”
TPR and Action Fraud said that in some instances, the crime families have hired rogue financial experts with specialist pension knowledge, including accountants, advisers, and trustees, to help in running large-scale scams. The organizations said that these financial experts are essential in helping the families commit their crimes.
The familial fraud was found during intelligence gathering by members of the multi-agency Project Bloom group, which was set up to tackle pension scams. The group said that several “fraudster families” are targeting pension holders.
Project Bloom is a collaboration among government departments, agencies, regulators, law enforcement bodies, and representatives of the pension industry. The partners include TPR, the Financial Conduct Authority, the Department for Work and Pensions, HM Treasury, the Serious Fraud Office, City of London Police, and The Pensions Scams Industry Group (PSIG), among others.
The PSIG, a multi-industry initiative, was established to combat pension scams. It has published guidelines for key steps to help identify possible pension scams, as well as provide practical guidance such as checklists and sample letters. TPR said pension plans have been adopting PSIG’s guidelines in the three years since its launch and said it has resulted in the prevention of thousands of transfers to unauthorized arrangements, saving many people from a likely loss of pension savings.
According to TPR and the FCA, victims of pension scams have lost an average of £91,000 each in 2017.