Reports this morning suggest the government is to ban cold calls on all financial products as part of a crackdown on scams. In addition, a new 400-strong ‘fraud squad’ will be established to target scammers.
Tom Selby, head of retirement policy at AJ Bell, was one of the earliest and most vocal campaigners for a pensions cold calling ban in the UK. That cold-calling ban was eventually introduced in 2019.
Selby comments: “Financial scams are a scourge on society and ruin lives, so any move to protect more consumers from different types of fraud is extremely welcome. Governments cannot stop scams altogether, but they can place significant barriers in the way of those intent on committing fraud.
“According to UK Finance, an estimated £1.3 billion was stolen through financial fraud in 2021. These scams will often begin with an unsolicited approach from someone via phone, text message, email or on social media.
“For this cold-calling crackdown to work we need two things: tightly worded legislation, to ensure nefarious contacts are specifically targeted, and a legitimate threat of enforcement where someone breaks the new rules. The plans also need to go hand-in-hand with greater responsibility being taken by internet giants like Google for paid-for scam adverts, something which the Online Safety Bill can hopefully bring into UK legislation.
“The successful campaign to ban pensions cold-calling in 2019 was never supposed to be just about pensions. We have always warned that the vast majority of fraud takes place outside of pensions, usually in the form of investment ‘opportunities’ that turn out to be at best missold and at worst entirely non-existent.
“The ban on pensions cold-calling therefore needed to be seen as the beginning of a wider effort to tackle scams more generally and beef-up education. The pandemic and the subsequent cost-of-living crisis have both resulted in rising vulnerability in the UK which, depressingly, is like blood in the water to fraudsters. The pandemic in particular has also, understandably, likely meant progress in tackling scams has not been as fast as some would have liked.
“The grim reality is that, even with new rules and tough enforcement, scammers will continue their attempts to plunder people’s hard-earned savings. It is therefore vital, regardless of what the government does, that Brits keep their wits about them and are cautious when they are contacted out of the blue by someone they don’t know about their finances. Much of this is common sense, but it could save you from financial misery.”