/ Money

Watch out for scam calls about your pension

Older person on phone

From today, it’s a lot easier for the ICO to fine nuisance calling companies. This is especially good news considering the predicted influx of calls about pensions. Here’s the ICO on why you must report these calls.

Previously, in order to issue a fine of up to £500,000, our office had to be able to demonstrate that a company’s activities caused, or had the potential to cause, substantial damage or substantial distress to the individuals affected.

This has been problematic and led to a situation where we had to wait for a company to generate the necessary volumes of complaints before we could issue a fine.

This existing bar was removed this morning, meaning that we are now able to fine those companies responsible for pestering people with unwanted marketing at a much earlier stage.

We’ve been pushing for this change for over a year now with the support of others, including Which?. And it appears that this strengthening of our powers was made just in time…

Nuisance calls about your pension

Only last week, the Daily Mail reported that shady elements within the cold calling industry are getting ready to take advantage of the pension liberation changes by targeting pensioners with calls and texts in order to get their hands on people’s pension pots.

The news followed a previous warning from our office that we were getting ready for a huge spike in the number of scam texts and calls linked to pensions when the pension changes come through on 6 April.

The Mail’s disturbing findings sadly confirm that our fears may be well founded. Personal data is such a valuable asset, particularly financial information. The worst case scenario here is this information getting into the wrong hand and being used to target individuals at a critical point in their financial lives. The good news is that our enhanced powers mean that the ICO is able to lead the fight back.

We have already issued fines totalling over £800,000 against companies responsible for breaching the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations by making nuisance calls and sending spam texts. As of today, this figure is set to increase, but we can only use our new powers using complaints received from today onwards.

This is where you can help us out.

Report nuisance calls and spam texts

If you’re registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), companies shouldn’t be able to bother you with marketing calls. The only way a company can contact you again is if they have your consent.

We’d like to know about any nuisance calls or spam texts you get that break these rules. You can use Which?’s reporting tool to find the right regulator to report the nuisance call you’ve received. Even if you don’t have the name of the company who called you, every little bit of information you provide will be used to identify and punish those responsible.

So the next time you’re pestered with a nuisance call or text let us know about it and you’ll be joining the growing numbers calling time on nuisance calls. And if you’ve had any calls about your pension, we’d like to hear about that too.

This is a guest post by Steve Eckersley, who leads the Enforcement Team in the Information Commissioner’s Office. All opinions are Steve’s own, not necessarily those of Which?


Has our esteemed Information Commissioner’s Office gone native? Steve refers to “shady elements within the cold calling industry”. . . . Excuse me! – The entire industry is shady. Even those who ring up on the pretext of doing a survey are on the make. Every single cold call received by the countless numbers who have described them in one of the Which? Conversations on this subject have been made either using information obtained without authority, or made without express consent, or made under false pretences, or made with criminal intentions [or any combination thereof]. Some industry! We shouldn’t be respectabilising it and suggesting that any part of it is not shady to some extent. If there is an honest, decent, legal and truthful cold-calling outfit out there, well it hasn’t rung my bell.

Yes John I’m getting more and more irritated that some people in the media, the Government and even in “Which” seem to think there is an acceptable side to cold calling. They talk about how careful we should be not to be caught out by calls which are not legitimate, suggesting that some of the unsolicited intrusion of cold calling can in some way be considered legitimate. To me and I’m sure to most people “acceptable and legitimate” cold calling is not and never will be.
So rather than offering advice on how we might distinguish between colds calls that can do real harm from those some might consider just an irritant how about some effort in getting them all stopped.
As I’ve said before legislate to make the default an “opt in” rather than “opt out” for those who might argue in favour of cold calling, and give us all an international call on/off blocking facility to deal with those who will still pester us from abroad.
If “Which” wants a worthwhile campaign to pursue there is one that will get overwhelming support, of that I am certain.

DM says:
28 May 2015

I am called daily by the same firm using a variety of numbers which cannot be recalled today it was 0162846675 it gives you an option to get through and when you start complaining they hang up on you I have complained for nearly two years to the ICO about these calls being registered with the TPS is a waste of time and I don’t trust the ICO to do anything about it why do the phone companies allow calls to be made from phantom numbers why can’t we stop this at the very least. Why does BT think it’s ok to profit from this nuisance call blockers which may not even block these numbers as they are phantom numbers cost £4.50 per month or expensive £70 phone which will not be compatible with my other digital phones! The ICO should stop BT from profiting from this and should obliges all outgoing calls to be made by numbers which are legitimate.

Like you John I’m still waiting for my first legit call

Bill Aitch says:
6 April 2015

Educating the general public at an extremely early age would help protect ’em against cold calling, and hit the industry right where it hurts most. Does anyone reallistically expect me to hold any intelligent conversation whatever, least of all my medical, or financial situation, with a complete unknown stranger on the ‘phone/text/email, please? The Emergency Services charge a minimum fee of £600 for every hoax call, whenever they can trace the call. We should recieve the same compo, + expences, for every cold call/text/email we can trace. I find that whenever I ask their ID, or ask where they have sourced my name/no., they instantly hang-up. This is extremely blatant proof that they are breaking the law, as also that they are fully aware of it being illegal. The law is obviously an ass. It would be so simple to enforce the law, by means of prevention. If every ‘phone call/text/email needed chip’n pin, it would not only prevent most cold calling, but also most online grooming/trolling/fraud, etc. Every keyboard issued to the civil service is already equipped with a “built-in” card swipe, resulting in a digital signature on every email, etc. The new style digital Tachograph “built-in” to most new Group 2 mechanised vehicles instantly provides the necessary driver ID to the Traffic Commissioners, vehicle owners, as also the home office (Swansea). This should be extended, on a compulsory basis, to all vehicles, even all 2 wheelers, to assist with crime/accident prevention/detection, as also accident investigation.

Not only do we receive nuisance calls we receive calls promising to end nuisance calls for a monthly fee!! if I had a pound for every call from nuisance callers I would be a millionaire by now- I would not mind being a millionaire- so how do we turn the tables on these callers, especially those with limited English who are reading from scripts?

I wonder how many of the callers with limited English reading from a script are victims themselves, in a rotten job, vastly underpaid by our standards but perhaps well paid by local ones, with rubbish hours but perhaps steady ones, with a guaranteed income in a difficult situation. A sorry affair all round.

“If you’re registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), companies won’t be able to bother you with marketing calls.” Err think “won’t” is wrong I think it should be “shouldn’t”. Cos we all know that being registered on the TPS doesn’t work like it should.

So far I’ve had 2 nuisance calls today, both from Asian call centres and neither has a number listed.

Will the ICO get powers to summon the Indian ambassador to answer questions as to what his country is doing each time we report such a call. Lets annoy him to the extent their call centres annoy us.

And as regard to the new powers the ICO has, until I see a company fined £500k regardless of whether the company can afford it (then surely the directors should end up having to pay it ) I won’t believe they’ll actually use these powers to the full force they should.

Bill Aitch says:
6 April 2015

@ William: The ICO will find that it is impossible to prosecute against an anonymous firm/person/institution, when most of ’em are devoid of ‘phone no./ID of any description. The so-called new powers are just so much eye-wash, there is no hope of enforcing ’em. Against this back-drop, so many different “authorities” have both the “Right”, as also the means, to track every keystroke of ours, as they so wish. If we were to indulge in such games ourselves, completely devoid of any court warrant, it would be called phishing. They are operating under the law of likelyhood and probability (suspicion), oft devoid of any substantial evidence, and therefore, devoid of any warrant. Many of these international call centres in Bombay are simply a stolen mobile ‘phone, which has been illegally unlocked, and recommissioned as a PAYG. It is impossible to return the call, as also any such text/email. Devoid of chip’n pin ID, as I outlined in my previous post, there is no hope of valid ID, and therefore even less hope of the ICO catching those responsible.

@Bill, Yet at the same time telco companies are connecting these calls. I bet they know who to bill as they won’t be doing it for free.

Hi William, Steve was setting out how the law sees it (ie. nuisance calls are only illegal if you’re registered with the TPS) and that if calls still get through that you can report them to the regulators. I’ve tweaked the wording to make that a bit clearer.

@Patrick, thank you for changing the wording

Bill Aitch says:
8 April 2015

Swansea are civil service (home office), and they have at least 10,000 names, currently driving devoid of licence, and therefore equally devoid of insurance. They have a further 10,000 names driving devoid of insurance, and therefore devoid of licence. Why can they not simply confiscate the cars, instead of simply sitting on their hands, please?

Hi Bill, thanks for your most recent comment – Can I quickly remind you to steer back to the topic of the conversation (nuisance calls). Thank you 🙂

Bill says:
26 April 2015

@ William: How do you know that these “anonymous” calls are from Asian call centres, please? They could just as easily be coming from your “friendly” neighbouring public house, even more likely if you do not frequent such a place, and are possibly a “none-drinker”. Those reading the script may, or may not understand a word of English. I have a client who is British, born under British rule, in India, ca. 1940. He spent 40 years in a B’ham (UK) factory, as cheap labour, before retiring 2yrs early, @ 63, with ill health. 10 years on, he is still yet British, still yet living here, in order to claim/cash his pension, while his wife, and 18y.o. son, live north of Calcutta. After at least 50yrs in UK, he struggles with IT, as he is still yet not English literate. His problems are not only email, which would be extremely useful to him, but also with internet banking, which he so desperately needs. He has a Mobi, which is of so little use, as he is certainly not capable of reading a short script. It does help him communicate with his own family out there, strictly in Hindi, not English.

Bill says:
17 May 2015

@ William: The telco companies have no chance against cash “over the counter” payments, complete with false ID as necessary. The ‘phone hardware is oft purchased from a man in a pub, as “used”, which could mean stolen. Many charity clients “lose” their ‘phones in this manner, some genuine. Sim-cards, also airtime, are easy to puchase over the counter, complete with false ID, as a cash transaction, devoid of bank card. Years ago, it was easy to use public transport by the same means, simply giving the John Smith ID, complete with a previous address of our own. We had 7 days to pay the missing fare, at the bus depot/station, or police station, of our own choice. We never did pay. The transport personnel who caught us, had no legal means of checking the false ID, and were therefore, legally, toothless. They could not even operate a “citizens arrest”, as the false ID was deemed “Valid”. We were basically innocent, at least until “PROVEN” guilty, by means of “due legal process”, in a court of law.

I don’t think the government or the media have done enough to explain that the new pension freedom primarily applies to people with a defined contribution [money purchase] pension. People with a defined benefit [final salary] scheme cannot access their pension pot without transferring it to a defined contribution scheme with potential loss of valuable benefits [like inflation indexing]. Some people in the latter category might not be aware of that and could waste time and money pursuing pension release and leaving themselves open to exploitation. Because of the serious potential cosnsequences people wishing to convert from a defined benefit pension to a defined contribution pension should not proceed without specialist and expert advice and should probably consult their own pension scheme manager or employer before doing anything. Defined benefit schemes are almost universal in the public sector and were once found in major corporations and other good employers. Most private final salary schemes have been closed to new entrants but many still have members who are over 55 and might like to get at their pension pot.

I always believe in reporting these scammers to the ICO. In the past few days I’ve received various spam texts but two relating to Pensions.

These two spam Pension texts came from different mobile numbers but with the same text content – possibly the same team of scammers using different mobile numbers.

I’m pleased that it’s now easier for the ICO to fine these nuisance spammers – it’s well overdue! But as consumers we still need to assist in this process when we can by reporting spam calls & texts. It’s an easy & quick process to do & it all helps towards the ICO issuing fines.

So far this week we , I’ve moved back in with the olds, as mum is now undergoing chemo, have had 2 nuisance calls both about computers and 2 other silent calls. only one had a number which has been reported to the ICO.

If the calls originate from India maybe the ICO should push to be able to fine the Indian Embassy instead of the caller if they can’t track them down. Just a thought.

Bill Aitch says:
10 April 2015

Sorry for that, but I was simply attempting to point out that it is an extremely similar case, where the law/state (Swansea), have all the ID they need, but despite this, are not only toothless, but equally spineless. The TV licence is also similar. The home office (Bristol), have the full ID f every “potential” such “tax” dodger, but send private bailliffs to sort it. They have no search warrant, and obviously no coppers warrant card, and therefore have no legal means of gaining entry, therefore no means of proof. It has been pointed out above, that these scammers/’phone hoaxers, are all known to their network/ISP and are therefore traceable by thier “airtime” purchase/cctv.

John says:
14 April 2015

My 87 year old mother was receiving distressing cold calls several times a day. She does not have a mobile or computer, so someone somewhere has been passing or selling her phone number to companies who indiscriminately target her as a sales opportunity. The utility, insurance and ISP companies are some of the worst. This practice of selling this information should be made illegal immediately.
I finally asked BT that her number be changed free of charge, which they did. Since then all the nuisance calls have ceased. The only calls she now receives are those from family and friends to whom we have personally told of her new number.
I believe that everyone should have the right to ask for a new telephone and mobile number free of charge. It is then up to the individual to tell all their personal contacts of the change in details.
As long as people continue to give out their contact details to online companies when making enquiries or purchases without opting out of future correspondence then they only have themselves to blame.

deepsea says:
18 April 2015

I recently bought a BT8500 phone – brilliant. No unwanted calls as all are barred. Well worth the £40 it cost. Peace at last

Vic says:
26 April 2015

In order to cut down on nuisance calls I purchased a ‘CPR Call Blocker’. This is very good at stopping calls once I have a number to block. It will also stop ‘Unavailable’ numbers effectively. There is the capability to block ‘Withheld’ numbers and that is for me a problem. It seems these days that doctors, hospitals, district nurses, and other people I need to maintain contact with are withholding their numbers when making calls. I cannot block withheld nuisance calls because if I block one withheld number I block them all. So any nuisance callers that withhold their number are still getting through. If I didn’t need to ensure that the doctors and nurses messages get through I would block withheld calls and my phone would be a lot quieter.

I now screen my calls through the answer machine if I see a ‘withheld’ message on the caller display. Very often this leads to the caller hanging up. I have no caller details so I cannot report them. Other times I get recorded messages that do not reveal what organisation is calling. I am directed in the message to press a named key on my telephone – a thing I am not prepared to do as I suspect that could in the end cost me money. Again, without details I cannot report them. The only calls that are withheld that I answer are those where someone I can identify speaks during the screening process.

Its not perfect to use the call block plus screening but this process has halved my nuisance caller problem. I am now considering a BT8500 phone. If it works as well as the claims made it may just solve all my nuisance call problem.

Steve Cashman says:
12 May 2015

Many of the spam callers use the 0843 number sequence. For some reason the owners of these numbers are protected by OFCOM, they prevent you getting their physical address, billing address or phone details of the owners.

If the victims of these SPAM calls could phone the owners up to complain, or be given the real address of the owners they could get action taken against them, Small Claims Court action for time wasted etc.

many of the nuisance calls begin with 0843 and are easy to ignore, but the last two calls I received looked like ordinary mobile numbers so I answered them.
one of them, a women caller, insisted, despite my denials, that I must have had some sort of ppi at some stage of my life.
I ended the call with a two word riposte, and it wasn’t bye bye!

Sheila Abbott says:
16 May 2015

It’s a sad fact that some newspapers carry advertisements which say that unless you fill in the cut-out coupon in all fields (for whatever commodity you’re ordering) they will not supply you with the goods.

These include such personal information as your date of birth and your telephone number (including STD). Why do they want this information if it isn’t to sell your name on? They certainly don’t need it to process your order for a bra, pair of shoes etc.

For example look at the back few pages in today’s Daily Mail Magazine “Weekend”

The newspapers can’t do this and, on the other hand, run campaigns about cold calling ; it’s sheer hypocracy!

It’s the same on-line. Retailers are gathering far more information than they need to fulfil the orders. I must have given my telephone number thousands of times but I have never had a call from a retailer in regard to the order. I never give my mobile phone number outside a very close circle; as a consequence I never get any nuisance calls or texts on it. I wouldn’t deal with a company that required my personal details like age and date of birth before processing an order. There must be thousands of scammers reaping this information and selling it on to cold-calling sharks.

Jenny chippendale says:
25 May 2015

We have been receiving 3 nuisance calls daily about 3 days weekly recently- mainly about ppl. As soon as I hear the message I replace the receiver immediately.

Cold callers I love them (not), however I have found an effective method of getting them to hang up on me, I speak to them in another language, or a combination of two foreign languages, they soon hang up, you don’t have to be fluent in any language just learn a few phrases and talk gibberish at them, or even make your own language up, and fire that at them. I have been doing this for a while now and the companies that I do it to generally don’t call back.

Another thing along these lines that annoys me is junk mail so when I receive any I look for the pre paid envelope, seal it in it’s empty state pop my partial post code on the back and post it back to them, I along with a few friends do this, which adds to the companies overheads. This I realise is just a drop in the ocean to the companies involved, but if thousands of us were to do it then it could make a substantial difference to their overheads and dissuade them from sending junk mail out, and this is good news for trees


Lesley says:
28 May 2015

I let most calls go to ansaphone – I put most important people on a different ringtone so I can “weed out” other calls. Funny how often these don’t leave a message or, if they do, they’re telling me yet again about a Govt. scheme re solar panels! TPS does’t help much – I answered one by error a while back, for help with installing Double Glazing, and was told TPS doesn’t apply to Govt. schemes cold calling (is this true?)

Telephone calls so bad 20 a day, so bad I could not take anymore. I enlisted the help of Age Concern Central
Lancashire, and also bought a call Blocker It was terrible. There needs too be action taken urgently.

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