Minister for pensions and financial inclusion urges HMRC to take a more active role in tackling pension scams
28 January 2021
The minister for pensions and financial inclusion, Guy Opperman, has stated that he would like to see HMRC play a more active role in combatting pension scams.
This was confirmed in a Work and Pensions Committee hearing on 27 January 2021, and Pensions Expert reported that, whilst addressing a written response from economic secretary, John Glen, which expressed that HMRC has always co-operated with Project Bloom, but is not an active member due to its “duty of taxpayer confidentiality”, Mr. Opperman said that, while he appreciates and understands that this “is a classic problem of data sharing”, he is going to look into the matter because he felt that “HMRC could take a much more active role in Project Bloom while respecting taxpayer confidentiality.” Project Bloom is one of the key initiatives designed to combat pension fraud. Additionally, Mr. Opperman stated:
“I would very much hope that HMRC can become much more actively involved in Project Bloom in the future, because they should be able to be part of the group […] in circumstances where we need as many hands on deck as possible.”
He also asserted that the pensions industry should be doing more to tackle pension scams, but that the Pension Scams Industry Group has done a very good job, and that, at present, there are 50 pensions organisations taking part in a data-sharing project. He commented further:
“But the practical reality is that you need about 200 organisations for there to be a real coverage of that industry. In other words, there are 150 firms that are not providing that data.”
Mr. Opperman intends to write to these industry participants to enquire why they are not already participating in the data-sharing initiative. He said:
“That will galvanise a great deal of change in a really quick amount of time. I think that will make a big difference.”
Figures published by Action Fraud revealed that fraudsters posing as legitimate companies took £78 million from unwitting victims through pension and investment scams during 2020. There was a 29% increase in relation to reports of clone companies in April 2020, when compared with March 2020, as unscrupulous criminals attempted to cash in on the financial uncertainty created by the outbreak of coronavirus.
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