Friday, August 09, 2013

Don't call us...

Fantastic retro phone icon by RitchieBrett (CC attribution 3.0)
My mother changed her name relatively recently.  After decades of using her ex-husband's name for everything she decided to revert to her maiden name.  She changed it on everything except on annoying catalogue company (don't ask me why she singled them out for special attention).

Consequently, we know more or less instantly when we receive scam phone calls from people claiming that her credit cards have been used, her computer is sending out emergency signals and her pension bonus is still to be paid.  They use her old name and not her new one.

She seems to have got onto some scammers mailing list of vulnerable people who might make good targets.  Not that she IS vulnerable, or a good target.  As ladies in the autumn of their years go, she's actually pretty up-to-date and aware.  She uses a computer, understands how to email and search, knows when someone is angling for her details.

I've been living with her for almost three years, and it's made me quite angry that charities in particular seem to harass her with calls.  They phone her to say they're running a raffle and can they send her some tickets?  Then they phone up every other day to find out if she's sold them and sent them the money.  On numerous occasions she has sent them money having sold no tickets at all, just to get the calls to stop.  RNIB are particularly bad in this respect, and I have given several callers a flea in their ear about the exploitative nature of the repeated calls to elderly people who are guilted into making payments they can't afford.  I fear that's a rant for another day.

We get a lot of automated calls giving information about PPI, pensions, loft insulation etc.  There's no way to tell off an automated call, although I do get annoyed enough to contact the Information Commissioner's Office to report them from time to time.  As they seem to come from a different number every time, I can see it is tricksy for the authorities to keep track.

Despite being registered with the Telephone Preference service, we still get a large number of marketing calls.  It becomes quite easy to sort the scammers from the reputable companies; once you say you are registered, reputable companies apologize and ring off.

The ones which really have my blood boiling are the criminal sort I have received half a dozen times on my mother's behalf.  One has someone apparently reporting that her cards have been stolen and are being used in a shop in London.  As they give the wrong surname, I know this cannot be the case.  It's a clever con, that I have read about, where the person reporting it to you doesn't attempt to take your details but offers a crime number.  They tell you to phone another number, or tell you they'll transfer you to a police station, or any number of alternatives which lead to them eventually trying to get personal details.

I strung one of these along for a considerable time, extracting name, place etc from him, but  he cut me off rather than give me a telephone number.  And of course, he phoned from a network where it isn't possible to retrieve numbers.

This morning we had one from someone who represented a company called Evantechs, apparently in Hanover Street, London.  They were calling to alert me to the fact that my mother's computer was sending out emergency messages.  They also rang off when asked for a phone number... it's an infallible test, they are never alert enough to spoof a phone number at short notice.

Thing is, I would have expected the powers-that-be to have got a handle on these companies by now.  Surely it can't be beyond the wit of man to ensure that any company or organization which makes hundreds of phone calls to consumers, should have an identifiable number, or not be allowed to use the networks?

The rise of automated phone calls, scamming phone calls and marketing phone calls is one of the problems of our time, and we need to get it under control, somehow.  I have come across several elderly people who have been taken in by bona fide companies or charities and committed to things they would really rather not have committed to.  Many others have fallen for the clever telephone scams which lead you to a premium rate phone number.  That's without dealing with the criminal gangs who use telephone scams to extract people's numbers and accounts from them.  Something needs to be done.

If you can't obtain a number, it can't be reported.  That's why I think *anyone* making a large volume of calls should be required to register a proper number somewhere that can be tied to their activity. Charging down the stairs to answer the phone for an urgent message for my mother is one thing.  Nearly breaking my neck in order to find an automated call on the line, or someone trying to get me to give them remote access to the computer is quite another.

No comments: