Pensioners and those approaching retirement could be bombarded and harassed by a flood of cold calls and spam texts from ‘snake oil salesmen' when pension rules change on 6th April, the Information Commissioner's Office has warned.
The privacy watchdog thinks that pension scams could become the ‘next PPI' when the new legislation allowing older workers to cash in their pension pot and spend it as they wish comes into effect. Pensions minister Steve Webb, himself a recipient of a spam text offering a free pension review, advised people to ‘put the phone down' on such calls.
He said: "You can spend years saving into a pension only to find yourself tricked out of your money in the blink of an eye."
The unsolicited calls and texts, many of which are promoting dubious wealth funds or false promises of overseas homes, have already seen a spike - rising by 66% in February - but the ICO expects them to increase further.
The ICO yesterday served a legal notice to Help Direct UK which had been found to have sent nearly 190,000 spam texts - many of which related to pensions - over a nine-month period, and the watchdog expects instances like this to become more common after 6th April.
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"There is clearly the potential for a huge spike in the number of these scam texts and calls when the changes come in. People need to be mindful about what kind of calls and texts they are receiving," said the ICO's Andy Curry.
"[We've sent a] strong message to all companies who use unsolicited marketing text messages to stop and think about what they are doing."
Since National Accident Helpline's Stop Nuisance Calls campaign was launched in November last year the government has initiated a crackdown on cold calling and spam text messages, and authorities will have new powers to punish the offending companies from the same date as when the pension rules change.