I am currently plagued by an unholy alliance of nuisance calls, texts and fraudsters. They are intent on trying to remove what little remains in my bank account now that I have paid my tax bill.
I feel as if I am suffering my own financial version of John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids – The Day of the Fraudsters. Or more appropriately, The Days and Nights of the Fraudsters. Rather than by aggressive plants, my life is being invaded – plagued – by fraudsters.
Wherever I am and whatever time of day it is, my Garmin Vivofit Band is constantly vibrating, telling me that someone is either pinging a text I do not want or ringing out of the blue. Some days, the number of nuisance calls and random texts exceed the few steps I’ve managed to take after spending most of the day glued to my office chair.
So I’m left unfit physically and, if the fraudsters and chancers get their way, financially denuded. It’s the worst of both worlds.
Since I began the year in a fairly good mood, the clouds have darkened. I have been told that I have had an accident in my natty Mazda MX5. This is even though, apart from an incident-free trip to The Belfry hotel in Sutton Coldfield to spend Christmas Day with my mum, the car has been sitting in the garage quietly gathering dust.
Of course, it was a company phishing for personal injury or whiplash compensation claims, but the call still troubled me. Did I clip a car in The Belfry car park on the way out? The mind does play tricks at such times.
I have also been texted to ask whether I want to turn my pension into cash. The message – not the first – was from fraudsters trying to rob me of my pension, one of the few assets in my armoury of which I am proud. Naturally, I ignored it. But the fact that fraudsters are still sending out such messages and calls is alarming. Financial fraudsters, it seems, are thriving – like few others – in brittle Britain.
There is more. My mother was called out of the blue to be told a cheque was awaiting her because she had overpaid bank charges. It me took a long time to convince her that it was a scam. “Jeff, he seems such a nice man,” she said. When he rang back as arranged and Mum asked him to name her bank, he slammed the phone down on her.
As for myself, I am being aggressively targeted by chancers attempting to persuade me to become a millionaire by joining the Bitcoin revolution. Indeed, as I put pen to paper and wrote this article, I received two Bitcoin texts. One imploring me to “ride the wave of Bitcoin and earn a guaranteed $13,000 in exactly 24 hours”. The other stating: “Become a millionaire literally overnight with this Bitcoin secret.” Yes, and pigs can fly.
Over the past year, I have had fraudulent withdrawals made from my bank account, had someone try to take out a loan in my name and received a phalanx of emails urging me to make a PPI claim. That’s enough scams and nuisance calls to turn an individual to drink (journalists do like an occasional tipple).
Sadly, my experiences appear to be the norm. According to research by insurer Aviva, consumers last year were bombarded with more than two billion financially-related nuisance calls and texts. That’s the equivalent of 4,200 calls and texts made every minute. Yes, a plague out of control and in dire need of extermination.
There are measures we can take to thwart these nuisance callers. The soundest is to register with the Telephone Preference Service (Tpsonline.org.uk) to opt out of receiving unsolicited sales and marketing calls. Like a castle moat, it will not provide a sure-fire defence – some scammers will get through – but it is a good starting point.
But if we really want to stop these charlatans wreaking havoc in our financial lives, then both the regulators and the government need to do their bit.
So we need the regulator – with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) leading the way as it will enforce the ban – to hunt down the perpetrators, fi ne them and preferably hound them out of business. By the way, the ICO has useful information on personal data and your rights at Ico.org.uk/for-the-public/nuisance-calls/
It is high time it acted on a promise to tackle cold-calling. Legislation is inching its way through parliament that could allow it to introduce a cold-calling ban.
It cannot come soon enough. Just think, no more PPI, motor accident or pension-related nuisance calls. Bliss. A mood changer.
Jeff Prestridge is the personal finance editor of The Mail on Sunday. He won the Contribution to Personal Finance Education category at the Santander Media Awards 2016. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org