HMRC under fire from scammed expat pensioners

Published:  13 Jan at 6 PM
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The British financial regulator is now under fire from expat pensioners scammed by IFAs.

As yet another QROPS pension transfer scam hits the headlines, the British HMRC is under fire for allowing rogue IFAs to register. Many who’ve lost their life savings due to the most recent scam in Spain have cited confusion over the regulator’s QROPS listing, taking them as approvals of the registered expat pension schemes. The list, issued bi-weekly, only requires scheme managers to self-certify their products, with potential investors forced to use a listed scheme.

The regulator makes it clear that it cannot and will not guarantee the schemes it’s listed, stating it’s the investor’s job to ensure the product is as described, thus making it straightforward for fraudsters to scam expat retirees who’ve no previous experience in financial matters. What’s worse still is that HRMC suggests checking out the offered product but gives no suggestion as to how this can be done nor any specific warning about possible consequences for inexperienced investors.

Newly-arrived expats in retirement locations overseas are easy prey for illegally-working pension scammers pretending to be their new best friends, with cold calling often the first step as it’s not illegal overseas. Slick websites are also used, as are emails and texts, often quoting non-existent qualifications, recommendations and experience, making researching these online an essential tool for staying financially safe.

Checking with the local regulator as to the legality of an IFA can also be done in EU member states, and the UK Financial Conduct Agency and European IOSCO rogue advisor listings should both be checked. Google can and does bring up pages on advisors who’ve been less than honest, and testimonials from other expats should be politely ignored, as it’s easy for dodgy IFAs to line up their friends and relatives as part of the scam. Basically, the loopholes provided by regulators make it easy for scammers and put the entire responsibility for the loss of life savings on to financially inexperienced expat retirees.
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