The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has warned employers to avoid becoming victim to fake auto-enrolment (AE) certificates after it revealed it had launched an investigation.
The watchdog said it was probing a group of companies, which it believes are linked, who have offered employers what they describe as "certificates of auto-enrolment exemption".
The regulator's investigation was launched after a number of these employers, who paid for the certificates, came forward with concerns about the quality of service provided by these companies.
TPR said it was aware of dozens of companies which have bought these certificates, and were charged £58, but said it believes there are others out there who have fallen foul to the scam.
Although it does not believe these certificates have been bought with malicious intentions, it has warned these employers may be committing an offence and are at risk of being fined.
TPR director of AE Darren Ryder said employers need to be careful when accepting unsolicited advice about AE.
"Most independent advisers offer legitimate services that assist employers with their workplace pension duties," he said. "Nevertheless, employers need to take care when they are seeking help or advice about what they need to do about AE."
"We will work to root out the small number of organisations that are looking to prey on hard-working employers, abusing their trust and tricking them out of their money."
The regulator stressed that every employer in the UK which has at least one member of staff has AE duties, and is required to comply with AE duties, by informing the regulator even if they have no eligible employees.
It is now urging employers to check to see if they have these certificates, and for those who have been approached to contact the regulator immediately.
The regulator's warning came as the National Audit Office warned that online fraud was the most common crime in the UK now.
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