British pensions scam losses triple in month after freedoms - data

LONDON (Reuters) - Losses to British pensions through criminal scams tripled in the month after the introduction of reforms which allow over-55s to spend their pension pots as they like, London police said on Monday.

Losses from pension liberation fraud totalled 4.7 million pounds in May, according to data from national fraud reporting centre Action Fraud, the police said.

This compares with 1.5 million pounds in April and is the highest monthly total since Action Fraud began in May 2013.

In pensions liberation fraud, retirees are encouraged to unlock their pensions to invest in a fraudulent scheme.

Regulators have warned that the pensions freedoms introduced in April could lead to a proliferation of scams, while industry specialists say there is a lack of affordable independent financial advice.

Withdrawals from pension pots have exceeded expectations, with 1.8 billion pounds taken out in the first two months since the reforms, according to the Association of British Insurers.

Police said, however, that it was difficult to judge the impact of the reforms so far as "it can sometimes be months or even years after the crime that the victim realises that they have been defrauded".

(Reporting by Carolyn Cohn; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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