Dalriada News

Mike Crowe

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Cold Call Ban – At long long last!

As a parent to two boys I often recall a refrain I used (many times) that whinging will get you no where. A deaf ear is a deaf ear so move along. OK that’s what I preach not what I practice. I’ll come back to this.

I have had a bee in my bonnet for years now, since I first joined Dalriada and took on the role as Trustee to scam schemes. I realised pretty early on that the victims of the scams had to have a point of entry to the scammers and this was, more often than not, the unregulated cold caller who sought out their victims through persistent calling (or texting or some other method of spamming rife in the social media age!) until they hooked a catch. Often that individual was a member of a defined benefit scheme or had sizeable defined contribution funds with a reputable provider but still they remained open to the worm tongue persuasions of an unscrupulous hustler. It didn’t matter if it was timeshare, roller blinds, conservatories or pension transfers, these guys didn’t care. Their mammon was money, their kickback, and the mark was on the other end of the phone (or the interweb). Behind them were the architects of financial destruction, the pension scammers. They had a plan and some expertise in pensions to put together a package that had the veneer of respectability and an investment proposition to dazzle and entice. 8% guaranteed return? Step on up. If that wasn’t enough, there was always the offer of some ready cash. The cold caller had the tools, the chat and the motivation.

So back to my point that whinging gets you nowhere. Don’t tell my boys but I was wrong. I and many others on the “good guy” side of the industry saw that something had to be done. A campaign was started around a petition from Darren Cooke, a concerned IFA, to get a cold call ban in place. Know what? That whinging worked. Today, the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill received Royal Assent and brought in provisions for a ban on pension cold-calling. So what does it do? The Bill bans phone calls, text messages, e-mails and other forms of direct communication from these cold calling forms to an individual with they do not already have a connection with.

The devil might be in the detail of the subsequent regulations and it’s not expected that the ban will become effective until next month at the earliest. We don’t know, for example, if the new law will mean transfers resulting from cold calls are not recognised transfers which will give trustees and administrators more comfort in not making transfer payments they suspect are to a scam.

Undoubtedly there will be the naysayers. It won’t work. They will go underground (a criminal does not respect the law so what difference does a ban make). They will set up offshore call centres. You know what (part 2)? This is all true. BUT. The message is that if you are contacted, unsolicited, by someone offering you a pensions review or a transfer to a self invested sure fire investment (and/or some cash if you are under age 55) then they are breaking the law. Hang up, don’t touch it with a barge pole, report it to Action Fraud and/or the Pensions Regulator. Don’t fall for the scam. That’s the message and everyone in the pensions industry, the good guys, should be communicating it at every opportunity. … and that’s the rub – this change in the law has to be accompanied by a wide ranging and effective communication piece. Little point if the message behind this change in the law is known only to those in the industry but Joe or Josephine Bloggs know no different (indeed, awareness of any ban on cold calling was a point raised in last year’s consultation on pension scams).

Pension scams and scammers will, sadly, find new ways to access cash. They follow the money. We still need to see what happens with money coming out of the pension freedoms reforms. Lets not spoil a good news story though. I sent a message to Darren to say that he should enjoy a beer as a cold call ban brought onto the statute book is a huge positive which came about by whinging that something had to be done and that government inertia was not acceptable. The government listened and did the right thing. Result!