The world’s a tough enough place anyway, but of course the mass market for smartphones, social media and ‘keeping in touch’ 24/7 provides an easy breeding ground for all kinds of fraudulent behaviour.
I like to think I’m pretty suspicious – I regularly put the phone down on anyone trying to sell me insurance, or trying to get me to register now to for the free compensation owed me by banks who sold me ‘iffy’ policies that even now I had no idea I even owned (and indeed probably don’t).
I also regularly challenge people who call me from phone companies offering new deals, on the grounds (1) “How do I know you’re not a fraudster operating out of the back bedroom of a semi-detached in Hounslow?”; and (2) “Look, if I had wanted any of your confounded products, I’d have called YOU … goodbye, I don’t respond to unsolicited junk calls!”
Then yesterday I may have got caught out.
I’d been out for a food shop (always a stressful expedition for me) and had just got home. I hadn’t bothered to take my mobile phone with me, so upon my return I checked to see if I’d had any messages.
One missed phone call and one text message. Both were from my electricity supplier – I was being asked to call them back. I had several other things to do, but I figured I might as well spend a couple of minutes ‘killing’ this contact (it might even be an important matter).
I rang the number and got told ‘by an automated system’ (as it was announced), after having to confirm my designated telephone number, that I currently owed them an outstanding £211.
Well, no – not really. But, trying to keep in tune with my New Year resolution to be more positive and dynamic, I thought “Why not? Let’s get it over with” and duly went through the process of giving my credit card details. The system confirmed that it had gone through and thanked me for paying … and then I rang off.
Ten minutes later I suddenly sat up in my armchair and thought “Just a minute! Suppose that call was from a semi-sophisticated fraud operating from the back bedroom of a semi-detached in Hounslow?!?”
I therefore dashed to my computer and went online to said energy supplier’s website with the intention of signing in to ‘My Account’ and checking that the payment had been made.
My frantic attempt was rejected – either my ruddy email address or password was incorrect. This was ridiculous – I was trying to get in from my email account and the password I tried was the one I’ve had stashed in my diary for years!
Struggling to reach a human being for help, I eventually got through to a customer chat-line [by which I mean a system of two people typing ‘live’ to each other] and explained that I was trying to check I hadn’t been conned by a fraud … but couldn’t do so because their site wouldn’t let me in.
It took half an hour to arrange to ‘re-apply’ for an account with them and set a new password. I decided to wait a few more hours before going in and checking that my outstanding bill had indeed been paid.
I’m typing this at 0150 hours on Friday morning, having just signed in to my electricity supplier account … and seen that I apparently still owe £211.
Is this just a case of my payment not yet having been registered on the system … or it is the case that I’ve been conned? I’ve got no means of finding out until office hours this morning.
The Government should pass a law immediately banning all commercial organisations from phoning people at home.
The fact is that, every year in Britain, hundreds of thousands of senior citizens like me must be fleeced of the contents of alll manner of bank accounts, savings and pensions because these swine get to them and – being law abiding people just wanting to keep their noses clean, not wishing to fail in their civic duty – we naively pay out as invited.
Make them send hard copy paper invoices … and accept cheques as well. That system worked perfectly well for decades – why was it ever changed?
(Probably ‘because it could be’? Don’t get me started ….)