Well done Andy Agethangelou and the Transparency Task Force for establishing an APPG to deal with pension scams. At a time when personal and financial vulnerability is high, attention to the threats to our pensions is welcome. Thanks to Mark Ormston for keeping me and many others in the loop.
Bob Blackman MP will chair and Nick Smith MP will be Vice Chair.
At last night’s inaugural meeting it became clear that the problem falls into two distinct segments.
The first is outright fraud and is a criminal matter. Theft of money from pensions by deception continues to be a concern but is not the only worry.
Perhaps more worrying is the practice of fractional scamming where money is extracted from our pension entitlement by a series of middle-people, none of whom are openly stealing but whose collective actions leave pensions as denuded as were there open theft.
Bob Blackman spoke of his concern at being approached by offshore advisers and this should be a particular focus of the APPG. The tightening of regulations in the UK, especially over the transfer of rights to defined benefits pensions has had the usual waterbed effect with the problem shifting to offshore fraud hotspots such as Dubai, Spain, Gibralter and South Africa.
In truth , physical location is of little importance when face to face advice is unavailable and the worry is that we neither know where our advice is coming from or our money is going.
Add to this the increasing numbers of Britains now living abroad and physically distanced from the source of potential pensions and it’s clear the extent of the problem is much wider than the geography of the UK.
The global reach of the Transparency Task Force should be helpful to the APPG, linking as it does around the world. While clearly not a regulator, the TTF has the capacity to shine lights into corners the regulators may not reach, not least because of the drive and energy of Agethangelou and his colleagues.
If the APPG is to properly exert influence, it needs to link with the Work and Pensions Select Committee’s current inquiry which is until Wednesday (9th Sept) accepting evidence of scamming. Stephen Timms , who chairs the WPSC was at last night’s meeting and explained that while his initial work is on scams it forms part of wider research into the impact of the pension freedoms on the protection of pensions.
It was good to see the PLSA and others from occupational and workplace pensions at the meeting. The expertise of those within pensions must inform those without. The members of the APPG so far are without the usual voices heard within pension circles and the better for that.
We look forwards to seeing the terms of reference of the group and its wider constituency. Andy Agethangelou made it clear that he is open to all offers of assistance. If you want to be involved in this project you should contact Andy at firstname.lastname@example.org