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Helping members
navigate the sharks and phishes

Our viewpoint

Pension scams have been in the press again recently – The Pensions Regulator and the Financial Conduct Authority relaunched their joint ScamSmart campaign over the summer and the Daily Mail ran a blistering headline in between Christmas and New Year. On the one hand such publicity is great – it keeps the issue at the forefront of members’ minds and reminds them to be cautious. On the other, it can cause unease when members are dealing with their pension benefits. So how can trustees and administrators help members avoid the scammers and sharks?

The Pensions Scams Industry Group has published guidance to help trustees. It’s worthwhile trustees ensuring that their processes align with this and ask their administrators whether they have signed up to the steps outlined in it. As scams get more sophisticated it is imperative that administrators do whatever they can to help members avoid the sharks.

It’s also crucial that trustees and administrators are sure that their processes are as robust as they can be. Not only to protect their members, but to evidence if they are challenged. There have been two cases in the last year where the Pensions Ombudsman has ordered trustees to put members who have been the victims of scams back in the same position they would have been had they not transferred, because their processes were not sufficiently strong and that the Regulator’s guidance hadn’t been followed.

If you suspect that one of your members may be the target of a scammer, consider how you can deal sensitively but firmly with their case:

  •  It’s important to talk to members rather than solely communicate with them in writing. A human voice in these situations is invaluable and personalises the member experience. Also, it helps to explain the information you are asking for and get useful answers. People are more likely to be honest with a person than with a letter.

  • Make sure that the right people are speaking to members – not only those with the technical knowledge about scams, but also the soft skills and empathy to be able to reassure the member, not talk too technically and to be on their level. They should explain things in simple terms, and really engage with the member.

  • Suggest the member speaks to The Pensions Advisory Service – talking to a known, independent organisation can reassure the member and let them get a different viewpoint.
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