Pension scam investigations triple at Ombudsman

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The Pensions Ombudsman dealt with more than triple the number of cases relating to scams in 2014/15 than it did a year earlier.

New pensions ombudsman Anthony Arter also warns the number of overall complaints is likely rise, driven in part by plans for a secondary annuity market.

According to its annual report, the Ombudsman opened 1,281 new investigations in 2014/15 of which 177 were about pension scams, including 30 about a single scheme.

This compares to 1,058 new cases from the year before of which 52 were to do with scams.

Arter says: “As can be seen from the steady increase in the number of complaints, the challenge over the next year will be to reduce the backlog ensuring that complaints are dealt with in a timely manner whilst maintaining the quality of the process and decisions made.

“This trend is likely to continue with increased public awareness, issues concerning pension flexibility and auto-enrolment. Also, should a secondary annuity market be introduced, there may be complaints arising from the ability to assign annuities.”

Scams were the second most frequent category of new investigations over the year behind issues around the payments of benefits.

The Ombudsman completed 970 cases, 130 fewer than it projected at the beginning of the year, due to a lack of qualified staff and scam cases that carried on longer than expected.

Last year it completed 1115 investigations.

Two third (62 per cent) of cases were not upheld, while 22 per cent were upheld and 16 per cent partly upheld.

It took an average of 9.8 months to complete an investigation.