I still get several phone calls a week from these desperate people trying to get leads for dodgy law firms or whatever it is they do. You know the way it goes, the tell-tale pause after you pick up, the background buzz of a call centre and then a foreign voice asking your name, and how you are, and to confirm the telephone number and address and no, this is not a sales call but would you answer some questions....
I have begun to reply to every question by saying, very courteously, "I'm sorry I am unable to give you any personal information for security reasons". Today my caller insisted I tell him whether I was employed or not. He got the same reply about four times. He almost broke down, pleading with me that it was not personal and would I just answer. I stifled my own laughter and kept my voice steady and intoned my magic formula once again. He became so indistinct that I invited him to phone back on a better line but for some inexplicable reason he declined to do so.
I was really hoping he would ask what the security reasons were; my reply would be that he has to pass my security check and I would then ask him his age, passport number, credit card number and PIN and anything else I could think of. Even better if he had queried why this was needed. My answer would be "It is required by my security officer" and had he asked to speak to that self-same official, (surely even these people cannot be so stupid but you never know), he would have got me again, holding my nose and doing a silly accent. North Yorkshire perhaps.
"Nay lad, sitthee, we canna go giving out to strangers, think on and look sharp".
Any further objections and it will be down to a strict email from my old friend and advisor P.R. Crush and nobody messes with him.