Delivering Support for Scammers at Taxpayers’ Expense

The DeliveryDemon has been analysing the lifecycle of the common bureaucratic organisation. It is very obvious that bodies set up to deal with offences against consumers very quickly morph into something very different and much less useful. Being a bureaucratic organisation, they discourage individual responsibility in favour of box ticking and remote decision making. They quickly avoid dealing with the individual consumer, preferring to collect statistics via paperwork and cosy chats with representative organisations. This of course leaves the individual consumer dealing with layers of obfuscating bureaucracy on top of the original problem. And of course, all this bureaucracy is being paid for by the taxpayer.

These thoughts were prompted by the DeliveryDemon’s recent dealings with phone scammers. It’s common knowledge that these cold callers represent companies who profit from the sale of dubious products. They are known to target the elderly and vulnerable, timing calls for when these people are most likely to be home. The scammers frequently try to give the impression of legitimacy by using wording which conveys the impression that they are some sort of government body, and that they have the callee’s details from some official source. Recent scams include solar heating and payment protection insurance claims.

The DeliveryDemon registered with the Telephone Preference Service a long time ago, but this doesn’t stop the calls. First they exclude ‘market research’. Of course this is handing a ‘get out of jail free’ card to the scammers. All they have to do is ask a few questions to claim they are carrying out market research. Each time the DeliveryDemon looks at the TPS website, the list of things they don’t cover has grown longer, but TPS is still being touted as the best way to avoid scam calls.

The DirectGov website is promoting a new bureaucratic setup which enables simultaneous signup to TPS and MPS which supposedly stops junk mail. Guess what! The signup site brings up a warning message – ‘The security certificate presented by this website has expired or is not yet valid. Security certificate problems may indicate an attempt to fool you or intercept any data you send to the server.’

A mere few months ago, the DeliveryDemon became aware of the National Fraud Authority’s Action Fraud line 0300 123 2040. At the time the DeliveryDemon’s household was being plagued by multiple daily autodial calls from the solar heating scammers. After a couple of calls to Action Fraud, the scammers stopped calling. Great. But in a few short months it appears that Action Fraud has been quick to take the path of bureaucratic decline. The DeliveryDemon received a series of calls from PPI Claims scammers implying they had something to do with the Ministry of Justice and that they had some knowledge of a claim the DeliveryDemon was entitled to make. So the DeliveryDemon traced the callers and reported them to Action Fraud, only to be told that this was probably just their sales line. So that’s OK then? No it’s NOT. A dishonest sales line is a scam, that is and attempt to use deception to part the callee from cash. In other words it’s attempted fraud. The DeliveryDemon is nothing if not persistent and eventually Action Fraud grudgingly agreed to record the scam details for their records, but announced that TPS and the Information Commissioner were the correct complaint route.

The ICO does give advice on dealing with scam callers. ‘If you receive an automated marketing call or live marketing call which you think breaches the Regulations you should write to or email the organisation concerned (remembering to keep a copy of all correspondence). Tell them about the problem and allow them time to put things right. If you continue to receive marketing calls despite registering with TPS, or asking the organisation to stop, we may be able to help.’

Seriously, the ICO will only consider dealing with a complaint once the callee has actively engaged with the scammers. In other words, the caller has to provide the scammer with sufficient information to allow the scammer to validate the nature of the number they have been calling – and, like email address lists, phone lists can be sold for more if it has been validated that there’s a real private individual at the end of the line. This is common knowledge for anyone advising on personal security matters.

So that’s four taxpayer funded organisations all claiming to deal with phone scams, and all getting less and less effective, dropping responsibilities and passing the buck. The StayPrivate one has sprung into existence in a time of so-called austerity, and appears to bring no benefits to the table. What’s the point of politician’s airy persiflage when cutbacks in extravagance are promised on one hand, and money tossed away with the other? The DeliveryDemon despairs!

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