Last Friday, there were other things on my mind after the Brexit referendum vote. I was asleep in the easy chair when the first call came in at around 10.30am in the morning. I heard the phone ring and decided that sleep was more important. After all, I had been up all night watching the future of the UK unfold.
When I woke, I acted as most of us do. I checked my media. Did I miss phones calls? Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp? Emails? I found that the call I had slept through had come from 020 319 1569. Could it be the national media? Of even an offer of some work. That’s always useful.
I googled the number. There are many sites out there tracking fraudulent and abusive phone calls. This search made it clear that the call was from a Telephone Preference Service scammer.
I fear that vulnerable people could fall for this very persistent scam.
The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) blocks most UK sales calls for people who wish to not to receive marketing calls. The TPS service is free. Respectable companies do not ring you when you are registered with TPS. Certainly not if they are located in the UK.
The phone rang again at half past one while I was out on Gallows Bank walking Mel the Collie. I would not have answered anyway because the caller number was not displayed. Anonymous calls are barried by my phone service provider. Anyone that has the talent to get around this block must be engaged in some sort of hack or scam.
The next call came at just past seven in the evening. The call lasted more than eight minutes.
“Is that Mrs Boddington,” the caller said. Mrs Boddington? I said, rather hesitantly, “Yes”.
We then began a long call. The caller was very persistent. He said he was from the TPS. His story, and it was a story, was that the credit card details I had used to pay for the TPS service had expired. The TPS service is, of course, free. I have never given any financial details to the TPS and no one should ever do so.
He said that I had a particular brand of card – either Visa or MasterCard. I’m not saying which but he was right. But then that’s pretty much a 50/50 guess and many people have both.
I told him he was a scammer. He denied it several times. I guessed he was in India. He said he was in the Philippines. Who knows?
I suggested that he was badly informed. After all, I am not Mrs Boddington. He changed to calling me Mr Boddington and continued without as much as a pause of breath.
In the second half of the call, he pressed on saying that the regular payment I made to block international marketing calls had failed. The TPS only blocks international calls in very limited circumstances. The TPS does not require payment. I have never made a payment.
Finally, after more than eight minutes, we agreed that the call was getting nowhere. The guy rang off. I never got his name.
What concerns me here is the level of pressure. I was surprised at his persistence. The lucky guesses. It was eight minutes programmed to wear me down. Of course, it didn’t work.
I fear that someone who is vulnerable or who doesn’t understand the nature of the TPS could easily be scammed. Once credit or debit card details are given away to a scammer, it only takes minutes to empty an account or buy goods that will be resold.
I know that most people reading this blog won’t fall victim to scammers. But we need to ensure that the more vulnerable people we know are aware of this scam and others.
Many people I know around here are driven to distraction by anonymous marketing calls. They can block these by registering with the TPS. This is free and safe. People can bar other calls by getting Caller ID on their phone and blocking callers who refuse to reveal their number. The telephone provider will sort this out but will charge for the service.
Finally, we should never give debit or credit details to a phone caller. It is a simple rule but sadly people are scammed day in day out.