The FCA has told MPs on the Work and Pensions Committee (WPC) that it needs more funding to tackle pension scams as it has been ‘raiding’ cash reserves to pay for recent anti-scam campaigns.
The FCA has run several campaigns in recent years. The main campaign, ScamSmart, which runs on TV, radio and online, cost the FCA £2.6m between January 2019 and July 2020, according to a freedom of information request by New Model Adviser.
Last July, the WPC began an inquiry into the impact of the pension freedoms and the protection of pension savers.
At an evidence-gathering session held today as part of that inquiry, the FCA’s executive director of enforcement and market oversight, Mark Steward, told MPs on the WPC that, although ScamSmart is reaching a record number of consumers, the regulator needs more funding to achieve its goals.
‘There have been nine ScamSmart campaigns. [They involve] TV, advertisements, and radio and press advertising. In total, the TV audience has reached 180 million, generated over 1,000 media articles and 70 million digital impressions, and four out of five pensioners we have targeted. In addition, there have been more than one million visits to the ScamSmart website over the past three years,’ he said.
‘The campaigns we have run through ScamSmart have been effective but I think it is limited by the amount of money we have had available to spend on them. I think we need to go further, but there is a question of resources and money here.
‘The messages need to be repeated again and again [to consumers], and that is a question of money. [The campaigns] aren’t cheap. We found money to do ScamSmart through proceeds of crime, but it is still not enough. We are raiding more money this year for the expansion of ScamSmart, but it needs broader investment from a range of public bodies to ensure these messages are driven home.’
According to its annual reports and accounts for 2019/20, the FCA’s anti-scam work, including the £2.6m it has spent so far on ScamSmart, falls under its ‘professional fees’.
These fees come under the FCA’s Annual Funding Requirement (AFR), which is, in part, paid for by regulated firms’ fees each year.