Image showing two paper cut out people on top of a pile of money representing their pension funds

Under a third of pension fraud reports investigated by police – study

Following the announcement that the government has launched a fresh plan to tackle fraud, new figures show that just 29% of pension fraud reports are sent for police investigation on average.

The figures, obtained by Quilter, the financial adviser and wealth manager, from a freedom of information request demonstrate that over the last eight years less than a third (1,173) of the nearly 4,006 pension fraud reports submitted to Action Fraud were disseminated to local police forces for investigation by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), which sits alongside Action Fraud.

The government’s new fraud strategy includes introducing a suite of new measures such as launching a new National Fraud Squad led by the National Crime Agency and the City of London Police and investing £30 million in a state-of-the-art reporting centre, among other actions.

In some years the number of pension fraud reports to Action Fraud that were sent to the police for investigation was as low as 6%. However, in 2020 when the pandemic hit it rose to 66%. It is unclear how many of these ended up with a conviction.

According to Action Fraud some losses can run into the millions, but the average loss to each victim is around £75,000. However, finding an accurate average can prove difficult as many victims are unaware they have fallen victim to a fraud.

Jon Greer, head of retirement policy at Quilter, commented:

“Unfortunately, especially during economically difficult times, scammers thrive as hard-working people get their heads turned by too good to be true deals. These figures show that over the past few years, as finances have been stretched, many more scams have had to be passed on to local forces for investigation. This shows why it is important that the government’s new strategy gets a grip on fraud.

Sadly, because pensions are for the long term it can be years before victims realise they have been scammed and their money has gone. Once they are uncovered pension scams are extremely complex, they can span multiple jurisdictions. This all makes investigating the scams incredibly time consuming and expensive, which is why the police have to prioritise those few cases where they have a chance of success.”

Pension scams are extremely complex, require considerable police resources to investigate, and in many cases are only discovered years after the event. It can often take years of information gathering and investigatory time before the police get to the point of prosecution.

This means that Action Fraud and the investigatory agencies are forced to prioritise the cases they believe can lead to a successful criminal justice outcome.

Greer added:

“The pension transfer regulations brought in 2021 have had a positive impact on highlighting scams. However, even with those regulations in place scams are still being perpetrated making the Online Safety Bill an important piece of the puzzle.

Getting retribution for a pension scam can be tricky so we should be going to the root of the problem and that starts with getting the Online Safety Bill over the line. The government continue to risk people losing their life savings while this legislation stalls.”

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