Why tougher rules for online advertising would help in fight against pension fraud

There is no doubting the importance of an individual’s pension savings, which is why there should be greater protections against criminals who seek to relieve people of their savings than there currently are. One of the most effective ways of doing this would be to include measures within the much-heralded Online Safety Bill which would make it much more difficult for fraudsters to operate. But, so far, the Government hasn’t listened to pleas to include paid for advertising within the remit of the Bill, which is particularly perplexing when you consider what’s at stake.

So we’re in full support of the #StopOnlineScams campaign – and I was happy to feature in the video Which? have created, which you can watch here.

Pensions are potentially rich pickings for fraudsters

Research my team conducted with the Police Foundation in the autumn of 2020 showed that much more needs to be done to protect the £2.5 trillion in pensions assets that are potentially vulnerable to ruthless criminals.

Pensions fraud is arguably the cruellest of all financial crimes due to the significant sums sometimes involved and the fact that a typical victim – somebody towards the end of their career – has very little chance of making up their loss.

Pensions fraud takes different forms, but it is in the largely unregulated world of the internet where the risk is especially great. You don’t have to wait long during a session online to find an advertisement which promises to make you a quick buck. Invariably, such claims fall into the ‘too good to be true’ category but that doesn’t stop large numbers falling victim to this appalling crime. Our research shows that an estimated 240,600 people have fallen victim to pension fraud meaning the total amount stolen in the UK could be as high as £14.6 billion.

Many still don’t know they are victims of fraud

The problem is that we don’t know for sure because there are many unwitting victims, some of whom don’t realise that they have been targeted until years have passed.

If the Government were to act to make it much more difficult for criminals to masquerade as legitimate businesses online, then it would go a long way to protect consumers, and pension savers in particular. Therefore, we are proud to be the only pension provider joining the Which? campaign to call for paid for advertisements to be included within the scope of the Bill.

A message to the secretary of state

We want Nadine Dorries, who, as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, is ultimately responsible for the Bill, to understand why the inclusion of online advertising in the Online Safety Bill is vital to protect pension savers, and their hard-earned cash, across the UK.

If the Government fails to include scam advertising in the new legislation, it will create a digital loophole for scammers to jump through, helping line their pockets while hard working people lose out.


This article was written when we were B&CE, before we changed our name to People’s Partnership in November 2022.