Thursday, September 06, 2012

The blight of the spam call

A spell of beautiful warm weather in London has coincided with the Paralympic Games. I believe the games have been an outstanding success, but as I know nothing about paralympic sport, this opinion has no value. There has been no impact at all on my commuting into Central London, however one side benefit has been that, because the regular weekend engineering upgrades to the tracks have been halted for the duration, the Tube has been running pretty well. Or at least I think it has - as I am not a regular traveller to East London, I don't know how the key lines (Jubilee and Central) have coped.  [not sure how much confession of general ignorance your public can take: Ed]

I started writing about the Games but got diverted. My blood pressure is up because I was interrupted, with hands poised above keys to write a devastating reply to Ed that would send him cowering back to his ink-stained cubby hole to ponder long and hard about his irritating habit of making stupid marginal comments, by a phone call from a man, obviously calling from abroad and claiming to be from the "Government legal service" asking if there has been an accident in my house in the past three years. [Another foolishly long sentence. You do need me, you know: Ed]. We get these calls all the time (always from abroad because we are registered not to receive cold calls but this only works in the UK).  I asked him how stupid he thought I was. He said I must be an incredible genius because I knew everything. I asked him where that line was in his script. Then I put the phone down and five seconds later the sod called back. I put the phone down again. Hopefully that will be that for a few days.  A few months ago I tried playing along with one of these scam artists by saying yes, I had indeed had an accident, I had fallen out of a tree and was in intensive care. My caller was taken in for a while, or at least he gamely stuck to his "We can get you compensation" line" while I told him what agony I was in and how it was all my neighbour's fault. But maybe he eventually realised that perhaps I was not in a hospital bed and he terminated the colloquy.

The cleverest scam call came last week to Mrs. Commuter, with me eavesdropping.  "Hello, this is the telephone registration scheme. We understand that you are registered not to receive cold calls but you still get them. Can you give us examples?" This was followed by "You paid to register for this service but it is due for renewal. Can we have your credit card details please".  At which point we put the phone down and rolled our eyes at yet another example of human duplicity and greed. But claiming that someone has paid for something in the past is clever - you think, well maybe I did, so this call must be genuine. 

Scam phone calls of this sort are always to landlines, which are linked to a name and address in phone books, and therefore don't work when made to mobiles. So will they die out as more and more people cease to use landlines? You can't really phone a mobile and say "We think someone using this sim card has had an accident and is in line for compensation".  Or can you? Fraudulent text messages referring to PPI claims are spammed out to mobiles - maybe mass callouts from these wretched lowlifes in the Philippines will be the next way to try to con money from the great British public. The falling cost of international telephony, and the way you can use the internet to cut out much of the cost completely (Skype et al) has got a lot to answer for.

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