From today, any unsolicited phone call about pensions is a scam. But the ban is too little, too late, writes Sam Richardson
Today sees the introduction of a ban on pension cold calling.
That means that any unsolicited calls, texts and emails you receive, such as those offering a 'free pensions review', are fraudulent and breaking the law.
These innocuous phone calls can lead to huge losses - around £91,000 for the average victim, according to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
The regulator found that a third of the group most targeted, those aged 45 to 65, wouldn't know if they were speaking to a genuine pensions provider.
Any firm breaking the rules will be fined £500,000, with tougher existing punishments for those behind scams. You can report firms to the Information Commissioner's Office on their website or call 0303 123 1113.
While welcome, these rules are too little, too late.
It's one thing clamping down on the companies that play by the rules, but Government inactivity and a lack of effective deterrents have given birth to a wide number of criminals.
These crooks will try to contact you by phone, email, text and WhatsApp without a second thought as to what’s legal or not.
Why banning isn't the same as stopping
The cold call scammer was old news by the time I was born: the term was coined in the 1970s and dubious salesmen have been calling ever since, not just about pensions.
New rules introduced last year also mean you have to ‘opt in’ to calls from Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) and personal injury claims companies, whereas previously you’d need to ‘opt-out’ using the Telephone Preference Service.
In the last 12 months 50 calls, texts or emails were being made to every member of the adult population, according to the Financial Conduct Authority.
At worst, these calls could end with people losing their life savings. Yet many were related to PPI claims – all of which must be made by the FCA’s deadline, in August next year.
We’ll be pleased to see the back of PPI claims companies of course, but their worst crime was to make you pay for a claim that should cost you nothing (here’s why).
Pensions scams have (obviously) never been legal and the people behind them don’t care about fines, firstly because they don’t think they’ll be caught and secondly because they stand to earn a lot more.
Scamming has changed
At LoveMONEY we don’t actually write about phone-based scams so often these days, instead we look at new scams that might catch out even savvy readers, many of which use emails, social media or even smart toys.
Criminals still use phones of course, but they've also started using all those other methods of communication.
Given the Government's inactivity for so many years regarding cold-calling, one wonders how long it'll take to get control of email, social media messaging and the rest.
The recent EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was just the first step in a long, long journey in cracking down on this new online generation of criminals, many of which are based outside of Europe and beyond the reach of the authorities anyway.
Cut that landline
Like many people in their 20s, I’ve never owned a landline phone, and, because of nuisance calls, I have no intention of ever getting one, despite the mobile reception in my flat being woeful.
If you can’t bear parting with your landline, we’ve put together a guide to staying safe.
I’m still vulnerable to scammers calling me on my mobile, or online, but I am taking measures to protect myself after being inspired by a recent article by LoveMONEY contributor Felicity Hannah.
In it, Felicity explains why she is trying to avoid giving away as little information as possible online.
As she outlines, that random shopping website does not need to know your mother’s maiden name, and you could even lie about your date of birth.
And I put the phone straight down if it's a number of person I don't recognise.
We’ll all just have to remain paranoid until the Government and regulations catch up and clamp down on these areas too.
This article is an updated version of one first published in September.
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