A FORMER Pensions minister has said she was blocked from trying to ban cold calling fraudsters who prey on the elderly and the vulnerable.
Baroness Altmann, who served as pensions minister under David Cameron, has claimed her bid to get a ban on the practice was repeatedly knocked back by civil servants.
New rules which allow people to draw on their pension pots early has led to a surge in cases of money being taken from pensioners in cold calling scams.
More than 10 million people a year are being hit with unsolicited calls or letters, with fraudsters often offering “once-in-a-lifetime” fake investment opportunities.
Baroness Altmann has backed a ban on pensions cold calling similar to the one that already applies to the promotion of mortgages.
She said: “It’s so important to help people before they have been scammed.
“On every level, the Government’s approach needs to be to stop this happening. I think it is unacceptable to say we can’t ban cold calling. I had several meetings with officials to try to see why we couldn’t ban cold calling and also to see what we were doing to prevent people being scammed.
“The officials each time told me that banning cold calls either wasn’t possible, or wouldn’t be effective and each time I challenged their reasons they came up with others.”
It is estimated that up to 11 million consumers have received unsolicited communications about their pension in the past year.
And just six weeks after the reforms came into effect last year, consumer group Which? found that a third of over-55s who weren’t yet retired had been contacted by someone trying to sell them a dodgy pension product.
City of London police have revealed that the amount taken from pensioners in cold calling scams had almost doubled in the past year to £18 million.
Steve Webb, the former pensions minister under the Coalition, said: “We have got to a stage when legitimate businesses shouldn’t be able to do this.”
Research has also shown that nearly nine out of 10 people miss the common warning signs of a pension scam and fall for the promise of unusually high investment returns.
A UK Government spokesman said: “We are determined to tackle the scourge of nuisance calls. We take the issue of pension scams, and the targeting of vulnerable people through cold calls, very seriously and are currently considering ways to protect consumers from pension scammers.”