Mel Kenny: We must collaborate to beat the scammers

Mel Kenny

It has been a long time coming but the FCA is finally promising to take another look at financial scams. Without doubt, the level of professionalism among regulated advisers and the respect from other professions are now both huge.

I look around and find colleagues far and wide so much more qualified compared with 10 years ago. It is an indication the FCA and its predecessor have done a great job, alongside the determination of advisers wanting to further themselves.

Like recent advances in phones and computers, it is difficult to see what further meaningful upgrades there are left to make. Apart from the elephant in the room, of course: the huge fraud that is taking place.

While it can take an age to get regulated business done, money has been flying out through an open door into the hands of the gleeful opportunist. The technology age is a dark age for financial scams and needs addressing urgently.

It is no surprise it has taken so long. It is a tough and expensive job that will inconvenience all and there is a high likelihood of it failing. How do you beat impersonation and deception scams that convince the public to hand over cash? Police say there is little they can do when this happens.

Banks have already been trying to do their bit but to the detriment of their public profile. Many limit transactions to a blanket £10,000 in an attempt to limit fraud, much to the frustration of customers and some advisers trying to get the Isa allowance done at the end of a tax year.

“While it can take an age to get regulated business done, money has been flying out through
an open door into the hands of the gleeful opportunist”

Some banks have gone as far as prohibiting customers from withdrawing money without good reason and proof. That went down well.

When it comes to pension liberation, Royal London was recently held out to dry for questioning a pension transaction. Blanket practices designed to help protect the vulnerable do not impress the digital age client who wants things to happen now.

Keeping within its own remit, the FCA’s efforts to date have been the ScamSmart crime prevention campaign, which, although well intentioned, is in reality reams of guidelines and advisories buried in the depths of websites, pamphlets and footnotes.

That is in stark contrast to the trusting relationship being developed by the opportunist conman on the phone purporting to be a policeman, bank manager or indeed an adviser. There is Financial Fraud Action UK but while it provides a marvellous resource, apart from its efforts in lobbying the press into writing articles for the limited readership, who has actually heard of it?

As I see it, it will take a collaboration of all stakeholders to overcome the scams. A Mexican stand-off benefits nobody apart from the thieves. We have all got to do our bit and accept changes to processes are there to help everyone. Of course, that is, if advisers are not just the easy target of the regulator and the scammers continue to get high elsewhere.

Mel Kenny is a chartered financial planner at Radcliffe & Newlands