Six people have been questioned in connection with a suspected pension fraud as part of a criminal investigation by The Pensions Regulator (TPR).
TPR believes that about 370 people have been persuaded to transfer around £18 million into eight pension schemes at the centre of the case.
There is evidence that members’ funds have been passed on to companies connected to the suspects in this investigation.
TPR opened a case after a number of legitimate schemes received requests from members to transfer their savings into suspicious schemes and reported it to TPR.
On 11 December warrants were executed at two residential addresses in Essex in a TPR-led joint operation with Essex Police. A business address was also searched. Four people – three men and one woman – were interviewed under caution and a further two men were arrested and questioned, all on suspicion of fraud offences. They were released while the investigation continues.
As part of the same investigation, on 10 December TPR’s Determinations Panel suspended nine people from acting as trustees for a period of 12 months, and appointed an independent trustee to the eight schemes at the centre of the investigation.
Nicola Parish, TPR’s Executive Director of Frontline Regulation, said: “The legitimate schemes in this case did the right thing by raising their concerns with us and stopping their members transferring out and potentially losing their life savings in what we believe to be scams.
“If you are trying to transfer out of a pension scheme and your existing scheme is raising concerns you should listen to them. They are protecting your pension and any red flag warning signs should be taken very seriously.”
Anyone who is concerned about their savings in a pension scheme, or thinks they may have been the victim of a pension scam, should call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
- The Determinations Panel (DP), a TPR committee that operates separately from other parts of the organisation, made an order under section 7(3) of the Pensions Act 1995 to appoint independent trustee firm Dalriada Trustees Limited to the eight schemes on the basis that this was necessary to secure the proper use of the scheme’s assets, to secure that the trustees have the necessary knowledge and skill, and otherwise to protect the interests of members.
- The DP also made orders under sections 8 and 9 of the 1995 Act, including that Dalriada should exercise powers to the exclusion of the existing trustees.
- The DP suspended nine individuals under section 4(1) of the Pensions Act 1995, pending consideration being given to the commencement of criminal proceedings against them.
- The DP acted under TPR’s special procedure, which allows orders to be made without prior notice to the individuals concerned, where this is necessary because of an immediate risk to the interests of members and scheme assets. The decision is subject to compulsory review, under section 97 of the Pensions Act 2004.
- The FCA and TPR are urging the public to be ScamSmart with their pension and always check who they’re dealing with. The regulators recommend four simple steps to protect yourself from pension scams:
- Reject unexpected pension offers whether made online, on social media or over the phone
- Check who you’re dealing with before changing your pension arrangements – check the FCA Register or call the FCA contact centre on 0800 111 6768 to see if the firm you are dealing with is authorised by the FCA
- Don’t be rushed or pressured into making any decision about your pension
- Consider getting impartial information and advice
If you think you’ve been a victim of a pension scam, report it. Visit fca.org.uk/scamsmart to find out more.
- TPR is the regulator of work-based pension schemes in the UK. Our statutory objectives are: to protect members’ benefits; to reduce the risk of calls on the Pension Protection Fund (PPF); to promote, and to improve understanding of, the good administration of work-based pension schemes; to maximise employer compliance with automatic enrolment duties; and to minimise any adverse impact on the sustainable growth of an employer (in relation to the exercise of TPR’s functions under Part 3 of the Pensions Act 2004 only).