An investigation has been launched into claims millions of people’s pension pot details are being sold and ending up in the hands of criminals.
Pensioners’ salaries, the value of their investments and the size of their pensions are being sold for as little as FIVE PENCE without their consent.
The financial details are allegedly being bought by fraudsters and cold-calling firms according to the Daily Mail.
The paper reports that its undercover reporters were sold pension pot details for 15,000 people without any checks being made on who they were and what they wanted the data for.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the privacy watchdog, has launched an investigation into the claims and said it would be speaking to the Pensions Regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority and police.
The probe comes ahead of pension reforms, which will give Britons the chance to access their full retirement pots.
Experts at the ICO have previously warned that the pension reforms on April 6 could result in a flood of scams on the scale of “the next PPI scandal”.
Steve Eckersley, the head of enforcement at the ICO, said the revelations are “very worrying indeed”.
He said: “It suggests a frequent disregard of laws that are in place specifically to protect consumers. We will be launching an investigation immediately.
“We’re aware of allegations raised against several companies involved in the cold-calling sector, and will be making inquiries to establish whether there have been any breaches of the Data Protection Act or Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.
“The ICO has powers to issue companies with fines of up to £500,000 for the most serious breaches of the Data Protection Act, while we can also pursue criminal prosecutions around unlawfully obtaining or accessing personal data.”
An ICO spokesman said it appeared that some firms were getting their hands on pension details because some people do not read the terms and conditions of contracts they sign, leaving them open to having their personal data accessed.
However, he said that it appeared some companies were getting and selling on the information unlawfully.
Some details appear to have been stolen, while other firms appear to have kept personal information when they should have deleted it.
Discussing the pension reforms, Mr Eckersley added: “The information we’ve been shown supports the work we’ve been doing to target the shady industry that operates behind the nuisance of cold calls and spam texts.”
PENSION REFORMS COME INTO FORCE
About half a million older savers will be handed radical new freedoms as a “new pensions culture” dawns next week.
From April 6 onwards, people aged 55 and over will be deciding what to do with retirement savings.
When people come to retire, they will no longer be required to use their pension pot to buy a retirement annuity.
Under the new reforms, older savers will be able to access their pots how they wish, subject to their marginal rate of income tax.