UK expats lose a billion in fraudulent investment scam

Published:  18 Aug at 6 PM
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In spite of multiple warnings from the UK Financial Conduct Agency and other concerned financial experts, pension liberation has proved to be a pot of gold for scammers.

Expat advocacy group Pension Life has announced that increasing numbers of FCA-regulated financial advisers are endorsing pension liberation products which are clearly scams. British expats living in Dubai and Spain are estimated to have lost a total of at least one billion pounds sterling to fraudulent investment schemes.

Yet another FCA warning issued in early August detailed the inappropriate influence wielded by unauthorised product introducers on the investment choices of UK financial advisors. The watchdog documented an increasing number of instances where pension transfers are being made into high-risk, unregulated financial products.

Worse yet, the authority described the increasing swathe of investments introduced following last April’s pension freedom rules. Many of the so-called investments, according to the FCA, are no better than outright scams. Victims who complained to the company and were fobbed off with regulatory jargon are turning to the FCA for help and advice, only to be told the firm was unregulated and there is no recourse in law.

Former tax advisor Angela Brooks, CEO of Pension Life, told the media than the majority of scams are being run by a mafia-like group of criminals known to the FCA. Their modus operandum is to run one scam until it’s discovered, then move on quickly to another scheme, with no authority stopping them making fortunes by selling financial ruin to innocent investors.

Recently, five fraudulent pension liberation scamming firms were shut down by the UK Insolvency Service after they had scammed some 500 pensioners out of £128 million. Using unregulated products such as loan companies and storage pods, they attracted their victims by promising much higher returns than could be had during years of rock-bottom interest rates and poor returns.

According to the FCA, the number of scammers taking advantage of the new pension liberation laws has increased since the new rules came into being. Data gathered via the ScamSmart campaign indicated that more than half of British pensioners have been conned into investing in unregulated products such as wine, land and diamonds. A good proportion of those affected are expats.
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