Police have shut down 10 web sites aimed at scamming retirement savers out of their cash by offering bogus pension liberation services.
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The National Crime Agency stepped in to close the web sites after warning internet domain registries that firms offering pension liberation were likely to be fraudsters.
The NCA explained the websites were designed to entice savers to access part of their pension fund by switching away from their current provider into a new scheme.
Unless exceptional circumstances apply, anyone aged under 55 taking pension cash before retirement must pay tax of more than 50% on the total pension fund. The rest of the money goes to fraudsters as charges for arranging the transaction or is lost in worthless or non-existent investments.
The NCA says pension liberation fraud has cost savers more than £500 million in lost funds.
The NCA has alerted domain registrars that content on the web sites breaks the terms and conditions of holding a domain name, which gives the registrar to block the web site.
Anyone trying to use the sites is now directed to a page on the government’s Action Fraud web site explaining why pension liberation is illegal and how to report scammers to the police.
The NCA action is part of Operation Bloom, a joint task force including pension regulators and HMRC.
Stephanie Jeavons from the NCA said: “Many retirement savers do not understand pension liberation is illegal and the people behind the operations are fraudsters who want to grab their cash.
“Being conned out of your hard-earned retirement cash is bad enough, but then to lose the rest in fines and penalties can be devastating for victims who were relying on the pension to fund their later years who now find they have nothing in the pot.
High Court action
“Banning these web sites and the fraudsters behind them from the internet is just one tool in the fight against this type of crime.”
Operation Bloom has resulted in several arrests, while The Pensions Regulator has started several High Court cases against alleged pension liberation fraudsters.
Police raided offices in London earlier in the year, arresting staff and seizing computers and records.
A High Court case aimed at setting a land mark judgment outlawing pension liberation has just ended, with a ruling expected later in the year.
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