A telesales lesson in who not to trust
I was delighted when it was announced six months ago that the Government were going to tackle and prosecute 'cold callers' who target the elderly and vulnerable. All I can say is, they'd better get their skates on because, if anything, it's got worse this year for my poor old dad.
Dad is 83 years old and, like many of that age, he comes from a generation who were brought up to be polite and courteous at all times with their fellow man. Sadly, in our brave new world, this is now seen as a weakness that can be capitalised on by the rude and ruthless.
If you recall, I wrote about this back in August, having just encountered a telephone con-man who was attempting to fleece my dad of his hard-earned pension. This fella had phoned up and pretended to be from BT, who, he said, were offering a telephone screening service to stop nuisance calls. For a fee, of course. It turned out that he himself was a nuisance caller and BT knew nothing about it. How cynical is that? Could they stoop any lower? Sadly, the answer is yes.
I've been staying with my dad for the last week and in that short space of time I've had to tackle numerous telesales callers trying a variety of tactics to avail of my dad's life savings. Three in particular stand out, which I'm going to share with you in case you find yourself or your dependants in the same situation.
Tactic 1: The phone rings; it's an undisclosed number. Dad answers. "Good afternoon. Could you confirm your name and address please?" The key to this scam is that they are so direct they sound officious and legitimate, like the police. So dad replies with his full name and address, like a lamb to the slaughter.
Once they have this information it is plain sailing all the way to his bank account details, because they know by his willingness to comply that this is indeed a naive and vulnerable adult. In this particular case, the dodgy geezer was trying to sell my dad a new driveway, until I intercepted and told him where exactly to put his telephone receiver.
The lesson learnt: Don't answer unknown callers. Always check that the number is displayed before answering.
Tactic 2: The phone rings and it appears to be a local number. So dad answers. "Good Morning! Who am I speaking to (suspicious)? Ah, Mr Burscough! I'm from the bank. I have some great news for you. It appears that you have qualified to receive a lump sum payment following some miss-sold PPI. I just need to confirm your account details and then we can transfer it straight away!"
As soon as I see dad reaching into his wallet for his bank card, I grab the phone and tell the **** to **** away off before I call the police. I then check the number and it's false.
The lesson learnt: Now even local numbers can be faked. If you hear them say 'PPI' hang up straight away. This may seem obvious to younger folk who are more cynical and suspicious, but to the trusting elderly it sounds legitimate.
Tactic 3: The phone rings. I answer it this time. "Hello could I speak to Mr Burscough? This is Sheila and I'm calling from [a well-known charity]. Mr Burscough is one of our valued donors".
She sounded pleasant and the organisation she named is a reputable charity, so I hand over the phone to dad, but eavesdrop. She says: "I'm just ringing to check you got the raffle tickets we sent out to you in the post? Well, the fact is we sent you out three books of raffle tickets in January, valued at £10 per book. You were asked to either sell them on our behalf or return them unused to our freepost address. As we haven't heard back, you owe us £30. Could you give me your bank account details so it can be settled over the phone?" At this stage I take the receiver and terminate the call. I then go online and discover that this isn't a scam. Unbelievably, it is a representative of the charity employing a new telesales technique.
The lesson learnt: No matter who they are, if they're phoning up asking for money, tell them where to go because very soon this intimidating cold-calling practice will be illegal.