Zurich has written to the BBC asking the broadcaster to include a pension cold-calling scam storyline in EastEnders to raise awareness of the threat of scams.
The letter, written by Zurich’s senior public affairs manager Laura McAlpine, made note of the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) recent Financial Lives survey research which found that 107,000 people ‘were potentially the subject of a scam’ last year following unsolicited approaches.
‘Zurich, along with many other industry and consumer groups, including The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS), has been concerned at the proliferation of customers seeking to transfer their pension funds to suspicious schemes, having been approached, via call, text or email, by so-called introducers offering free pension reviews,’ McApline said in the letter.
She added that including a storyline in EastEnders about a pension scam would be a ‘vital tool in raising awareness’ about scams and noted Zurich saw a significant fall in suspicious transfer requests following BBC Panorama’s programme on pension scams in July 2016.
‘There are a number of characters which we believe would fit this storyline including Billy Mitchell, Jane Beale, Shirley Carter, Carmel Kazemi or the Murrays with one of the characters cold called about their pension and encouraged to transfer their funds to a suspicious scheme on the promise of increased returns only to eventually find out that it was a scam,’ the letter said.
‘The storyline could then potentially develop to focus on the impact of the character’s mental health as they attempt to hide the consequences of falling victim to the scam from friends and family.’
McApline added Zurich could provide technical assistance with any scam story that beset the residents of Albert Square, along with its partners at TPAS.
In 2016 the government announced plans to ban pensions cold-calling, although as New Model Adviser® reported last October this ban may not be legislated for until 2019.
Speaking with New Model Adviser® TPAS chief executive Michelle Cracknell backed Zurich's idea.
She said even with the cold-calling ban in place, public awareness needs to be raised about the issue and a soap storyline could be a great way of doing this.
‘Scammers will always find a way of circumventing legislation so the cold-calling [ban] is not going to stop scams. So any innovative ideas to raise awareness about what to look out for I think is fantastic,’ she said.
In response to the letter the BBC said while it cannot accept storyline suggestions from individual companies or organisations, the idea has been passed to its research team.
News of the letter follows MP Frank Field calling for the FCA to consider a ban on unregulated pension introducers earlier this week.