A landmark inquiry into pension scams was launched by MPs yesterday after the Mail exposed how the £10billion fraud has destroyed tens of thousands of lives.
Campaigners said it was a major breakthrough in the battle against criminals who have been plundering retirement savings on an ‘industrial scale’ with near impunity.
Army veterans, police officers, firefighters, paramedics, care workers and teachers are among those fleeced when using Government-sanctioned pension schemes. Many victims banked on the fact the investments were registered with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Announcing the inquiry, Stephen Timms said unscrupulous scammers had ‘crippled dreams of a comfortable retirement’.
The chairman of the Commons work and pensions committee warned that the known losses might only be the tip of the iceberg. MPs will investigate the scams in the first strand of a three-part inquiry into the protection of savers and the pension freedoms introduced in 2015. The Mail’s investigation showed that scammers were able to move from one rogue scheme to another to continue to defraud victims.
A Serious Fraud Office detective investigating the problem told the Mail it was easier to steal a pension than steal a TV, because of lax regulations and lack of enforcement.
The inquiry will look into whether it is right that many scam victims are also now being targeted by HMRC because the bogus schemes they unwittingly signed up to broke tax laws.
The Financial Conduct Authority has warned there may be more than five million victims.
In most cases, the scammers took huge fees to transfer pensions, then repeatedly reinvested the savings in high-risk investments that paid them hefty commissions until the nest eggs were obliterated. Because many of the schemes destroyed or never kept records of members, it is feared some are unaware their pension has vanished. Andy Agathangelou, founder of the Transparency Task Force which also campaigned for the inquiry, said: ‘This is a breakthrough moment in the ongoing saga of the pension scam pandemic that has been blighting British society for years.
‘This inquiry means that there is now a chance for a thorough investigation into why it has been so easy for pension scammers.’
Mr Timms said: ‘We know reported frauds could be just the tip of the iceberg, so the committee is keen to better understand the scale of the pension scam problem, as well as the types of scams in operation and the role of the pensions industry and public bodies.’ Among the victims is Sue Flood, a former marketing executive who has battled for years to get justice after being fleeced of £125,000.
The mother of two said: ‘I’m so pleased victims are finally being listened to and this is finally being properly looked into.
‘The plans that you’ve made for your future and your future welfare are taken away. It’s vital that MPs understand the criminal element and the organised crime that underlies this.’