The mark of a decent society is as much about how we treat the victims as the perpetrators of crime.
On Friday (while a horrific crime was very publicly happening nearby), 40 of us were thinking of games to help people prevent themselves becoming victims of financial scams.
We didn’t talk about the victims of scams – perhaps we should have.
The victims of scams are known to be at risk of being scammed again. They are among the people who appear on one of the 15 known lists of the vulnerable , known to be available on the dark web. They are people who are extremely valuable to scammers as they are most likely to be scammed again.
- I am worried that a new breed of pension scammer may be emerging, and they may be targeting those who are already scammed using pension claims companies.
- I am worried that these companies are forming alliances – sometimes with legitimate firms and seeking safety in associations
- I am worried that people are getting confused and that scammers can exploit that confusion and leave victims to the mercy of HMRC and the courts
- I am relieved that at last , a Judge has recognised the victim’s confusion and separated it from collusion
Where next for the scammers?
Take a look at google and you will find that the pension scammers are currently keeping a very low profile. This may be because currently the FCA is putting the heat on social media platforms to keep financial scammers away.
The rise of the pension claim company
Beat the Banks is avoiding the google prescription because it claims to be on the side of the scam victims. When I first read the “Free Pension Review” headline, I thought this would lead to a warning to scam victims not to fall for one – or at least to be aware that reviews are the start of the journey that leads to perdition.
This was not the case. Entering into www.beatthebanks.co.uk I met screen pages which seemed to have been scraped from the sites of the scammers themselves.
Potential customers are presented with no information about who Beat the Banks are, but get instead a series of data captures designed from which they may get a call back.
If you want an example of how confusing data capture is, look at the small print of “Cash my pension”
Cash my pension do not offer financial advice and are in fact a marketing company working on behalf of FCA regulated companies in the UK who pay Cash my pension is for their marketing services.
Cash my pension and Beatthebanks are differing organisations but they both pop up on the first page of a google search for Pension Scams.
Data capture is the way that many people start getting scammed and anyone in the situation of the two unfortunates above are potentially giving their names to the operators of the lists of the scammed circulating the dark web.
Some pension claims companies worry me.
An “Alliance of Claims Companies”
Beat the Banks, along with a host of other claims management firms – is a member of a the Alliance of Claims Companies, indeed the executive committee includes Mike Begg , who is according to this now hidden page, Beat the Banks’ Managing Director.
The Alliance of Claims Companies appears to have been set up to keep claims companies honest. Specifically it has set up a compliance service to enable Claims Management Companies in business after they need permissions from the FCA (since January 2019)
I’m interested in why Beatthebanks has no mention of the FCA on its website, why it has dropped the page explaining “how it works”, why there are no mentions of anyone responsible for the service on its website and why there is a data capture on every page.
I’m interested in what expertise BeattheBanks has, since it shows only one employee on LinkedIn (not Mike Begg) and appears to be a trading name for PPI reclaims (Scotland) Ltd.
If anyone from the ACC or Beatthebanks can answer these questions , please get in touch with me firstname.lastname@example.org
The Alliance of claims companies worries me.
Treating the scammed fairly
If anybody wants to know the story of Sue Flood they can read it in full here. She is just one of many victims of loan-back frauds that proliferated at the turn of the last decade, fighting off HMRC who are pursuing the victims of back tax for defrauding HMRC and applying 55% tax penalties on monies withdrawn early.
I have sat in court and seen the confusion that victims have about what has happened to them. This is with the benefit of years of regret for being ripped off. I have seen eminent lawyers use aggressive language towards victims as if they were the perpetrators and I have seen the impact of this ongoing aggression on the victims lives.
The attitude of the justice system towards those confused into being scammed – worries me.
Thank goodness for Judge Christopher McNall
Last week Judge McNall delivered a verdict that should come as comfort to victims like Sue Flood.
He ruled that Elizabeth Hughes had been defrauding herself without her knowing it.
The tribunal heard that Fast Pensions had contacted Ms Hughes about the pension transfer in July 2012 and subsequently moved the whole amount of £31,267 from her occupational pension to a pension held with Fast Pension.
Around the same time in 2012, Miss Hughes took out a loan to finance the completion of her PhD, which she believed to be a separate and unrelated transaction.
However, this £10,000 loan was arranged through Blu Funding, which was connected to Fast Pensions and has also now been closed down.
Because the loan was secured by Blu Funding, the tax authority pursued Ms Hughes for 55 per cent tax on the loan she had taken out.
This is because to HMRC the loan had come from the pension and should therefore be treated as an unauthorised payment from her pension scheme.
But Judge Christopher McNall accepted that Ms Hughes was unaware that these two events could be linked.
1.Note on Fast Pensons This is the FSCS summary of the Fast Pensions scam. My summary of what went on is here (credits to Angie Brooks). Angie’s contextual blog is here
Those who have followed my blogs will know that scamming is mainly about confusing the victims into thinking they are doing the right thing.
These victims put their trust in scammers and are then asked to put their trust in claims companies (who use the same techniques).
These victims then find themselves on lists of vulnerable people and find themselves targeted again and again by the same scammers.
Judge McNall’s verdict at last creates a legal precedent for those , like Sue, who have been bamboozled into schemes they know nothing about and are now being accused of being complicit with the people who scammed them.
Does this ring any bells?
Thank goodness for Judge Christopher McNall.
We must support the victims – not persecute them
There are a number of issues arising out of these blog which I will sum up in a few bullets.
It seems to me that Claim Management Companies are operating outside any authority – including the FCA
It seems they are able to advertise on google and elsewhere with little scrutiny of what they are saying on their sites
Many of the sites advertised on the ACA advertise they are still accepting PPI claims (after the deadline)
Most of the websites I have looked at show no human beings on the site.
Most of the sites are primarily aimed at data capture
The educational elements of the sites (especially around pensions) are crude
I have found no reference to Government agencies such as MAS or TPAS or tPR or FCA as a source of additional support.
In short, the claims management sites I have visited (Beatthebanks being typical) aren’t providing much support and are leaving victims of scams open to more scamming if they succumb to the data capture.
If you would like to get involved in combatting pension scams you can sign up to The Transparency Task Forces’ Symposium next Tuesday (December 3rd)
Follow this link to book a place;