Weekly Money: the stories you may have missed 3 to 7 August

The personal finance stories we noticed this week

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The Independent Online

Pension scammers repeatedly targeting older people: cheap mortgages coming to an end; confusion means comparing current accounts is impossible; payday lender fined for losing data; claims company fined for nuisance calls; family fraud on the rise

7 August

The pensions freedoms launched in April have proved popular with people aged 55 and over. At last they’re able to access their retirement savings and do what they like with them.

But they’ve proved even more of an opportunity for crooks. Four months after the reforms came into effect, new evidence from Citizens Advice reveals that many people are being repeatedly targeted with pension scams.

Two out of five Citizens Advice staff report having seen people repeatedly targeted with pension scams while a further one in 10 helping with the Government’s Pension Wise service have seen people who had either responded or fallen prey to a scam.

Pensions Minister Ros Altmann said: “If you receive emails, or junk mail with promises of get-rich-quick schemes, chuck them in the bin. And if you get cold-called by someone offering a pension review or help to trace a lost pension, hang up because the chances are it’s a scam.”

If you think you may have been scammed you can contact your local Citizens Advice or the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.

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How much spare cash do you need to be happy? £71.54 a week, according to Sun Life. However the average person has just £38.19 spare money a week, after £4 out of every £5 we have goes on paying for regulars such as household bills, food and fuel. That’s a depressing thought, isn’t it?

* * *

Pay day lender The Money Shop has been fined £180,000 after losing computer servers containing details of thousands of customers. “There was potential for fraud and financial loss to customers which is unacceptable,” said Steve Eckersley of the Information Commissioner’s Office which issued the penalty.

6 August

Cheap mortgage deals are coming to an end. Rates analysts Moneyfacts warns that banks and building societies are withdrawing low rates with 36 lenders hiking deals in July.

Over the last month the average two-year fixed rate mortgage for someone with a 40 per cent deposit has edged up from 1.81 per cent to 1.86 per cent while similar five year rates have climbed from 2.54 per cent to 2.59 per cent.

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Drivers could save around £750 a year by going electric, reckons the Go Ultra Low campaign.

It says the yearly cost of a petrol or diesel car, at an average of 12p a mile for 7,500 miles, works out at £900. An electric car, at a cost of just 2p per mile, could cost just £150.

On top of that, electric vehicles benefit from tax incentives, free charging points and free parking in some areas.

* * *

Crystal Palace tops the Premier League when it comes to property price growth. Homes close to the club’s south London ground have climbed 17 per cent in the past 12 months, says Nationwide.

West Ham grabbed second in the property Premier League table with a 16 per cent increase while at the other end of the table came Sunderland with a 4 per cent slump in the value of homes near the north-east ground.

Also in the relegation zone Stoke City had no increase and Manchester United just a 1 per cent rise.

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The Hearing Clinic, a claims company, has been the first firm to be penalised for nuisance calls. It has been fined £220,000 by the Claims Management Regulator. “Hopefully this is the start of a concerted crackdown,” said Richard Lloyd of Which?

5 August

Fast cars? No, it seems people are being sensible with the new pensions freedoms with almost a third of those taking advantage of the right to cash in their retirement savings using the money to pay off debt.

Four months after the new pension rules came into effect, analysis by Fidelity suggests 29 per cent of people cashing in their pension have done so to reduce their debt, with just 3 per cent using the cash to buy a new car. One in five said they plan to reinvest the money.

* * *

Comparing current accounts to find the best value is now almost impossible, according to new research. Tesco Bank reckons a lack of understanding of the charges and interest paid on a current account makes it harder for people to move to new deal as they have “no effective basis for comparison”.

“People need a simple way to compare all the separate elements of a bank account,” said Andrew Hagger of Moneycomms. More than 1.1 million people have switched current account in the last year, a 4 per cent increase over the previous 12 months.

* * *

The average credit card interest rate was 18.14 per cent in June, 17.64 per cent above the 0.5 per cent Base Rate, reports The Money Charity.

* * *

House prices climbed 3.3 per cent in the past year but just 0.4 per cent in the last month, to leave the average house price at £195,621, according to the Nationwide.

4 August

There’s been an explosion in family fraud as Britain’s older people are being preyed on by younger relatives, warns KPMG. Its latest fraud barometer, published today, reveals that the value of major fraud rose by a fifth in the first half of this year to £385m.

Meanwhile fraud on families by one of their own grew by 384 per cent compared to the same period last year. Elderly relatives were some of the main victims, and had £1.7m stolen from them by younger members of the family.

In one case a woman stole her father’s savings after being granted power of attorney, leaving his care home bills unpaid.  In another, a man stole his mother’s £600,000 savings after realising he was not the main recipient in her will.

Hitesh Patel, UK forensic partner at KPMG, said: “Fraudsters in the family are abusing their intimate knowledge and close connections to steal from partners and parents.”

* * *

Financial advice is to be probed by the government after April’s pension freedoms led to criticism of charges and provision of advice. The Treasury’s Financial Advice Market Review will examine the so-called “advice gap”, which has left millions unable to afford the help they need.

Economic Secretary to the Treasury Harriett Baldwin said the review would “explore what can be done to make sure consumers can access high quality and affordable advice.” The results will be published before next year’s Budget.

* * *

A London housing association that supports women is offering a £25 incentive for tenants to start saving.

Brixton-based Housing for Women will pay the sum if tenants sign up to open an account in a link-up with London’s Your Credit Union. It hopes the move will encourage its 800 tenants to make regular savings.

3 August

The Chancellor has been asked to ‘think again’ about a planned 58 per cent tax hike that will hit millions of drivers and homeowners.

George Osborne announced in July’s emergency Budget that insurance premium tax will climb from its current level of 6 per cent to 9.5 per cent in November. But new research published by the AA today reveals that nine out of ten motorists believe that the tax is unfair and will encourage people to drive without insurance.

“There is no justification for this underhand and unfair tax increase,” said the AA’s Janet Connor. “We strongly urge the Chancellor to reconsider.  I hope he doesn’t just take note of our findings but acts on them.”

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Fed up with waiting to find out if you can get a mortgage? Halifax has today launched a mobile ‘agreement in principle’ which gives potential borrowers an instant lending decision within 15 minutes. It’s aimed to help first-time buyers work out what they can afford to borrow even while they’re viewing homes.

Customers simply need to enter information about their circumstances, income and commitments to receive a lending decision. The app will also allow borrowers to edit the term and deposit amount to show the impact on monthly repayments.

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Tesco is today launching a Summer Clubcard “Boost” event. It will allow customers to double the value of the vouchers they earn over the next few weeks on all Tesco Direct products.

Hundreds of non-food products will also be eligible for boosting in store, including large-screen TVs and iPads and back-to-school stuff.

The Clubcard Boost allows customers to exchange every £5 worth of their Clubcard Vouchers for a £10 Boost token. The offer lasts from 3 August until 13 September.

Meanwhile Asda Money’s summer discount card launches in-store today and offers 10 per cent off gift cards such as £20 Nando’s, £20 Facebook Game Cards, £20 Fatface, £20 Zizzi and £25 Gap. The promotion runs until Sunday 16 August in-store only.

 

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