/ Technology

How do cold callers know so much about you?

Private sign

Have you ever had a call from a company offering you their services on the back of some personal information they’ve managed to get hold of? It may seem eerie, but did you stop and wonder who passed your details on?

Ok, so it’s dinner time and I’m sorting out the kids when the youngest hands me the phone: ‘Mrs Driscoll? I’m sorry to hear about your accident. I’m calling to ask if you want to make a claim?’

For a moment I tried to recall my accident, but no, I hadn’t had one so I explained this and he hung up.

I didn’t think much about it until I received a text message a few days later. Again it was sympathetic about my recent accident and asked whether I wanted to claim. This was followed by an answer phone message – exactly the same thing, all of them talking place over the last three weeks.

The story unravels

It wasn’t until I heard Paul Lewis’ Moneybox programme on the radio last weekend that I realised what might have happened. The programme was covering the issue of garages passing on details of people who were making claims on their car insurance.

The programme reported that sometimes details were being passed on to other companies so they could contact the person in the hope of convincing them to hire a car or choose their legal services etc.

I realised that all of my messages had followed a phone call to my car insurance company. I need to have a new windscreen after a small stone cracked the glass. I also spoke to the glass company that was going to install the new windscreen and dutifully passed on my home and mobile number so that they could contact me if they couldn’t turn up (they didn’t turn up – and, no phone call!).

Don’t pass my details on

So did someone pass on my details to a legal company which was taking a punt that I had an injury after a car accident? I can’t believe that it was a coincidence….

Has this ever happened to you? We’re very interested to keep track on how our data is being passed around, so tell us about your experiences below. And next time you get one of these calls ask where they got your details from. Then you can check whether you actually gave permission for the company to hand over your name and phone number in the first place.

Edward says:
23 March 2011

I’ve had a similar experience regarding the fact that someone damaged my car in a car park.
They said they didn’t want to involve insurance and would I get the work done and they would pay
the bill.
This has duly happened, but whilst the work was under way, I received text messages asking if I wanted to make a claim.
Insurance were not involved, so what’s going on?

Lubna says:
28 March 2011

I’ve just half an hour ago had a call from a company to find out whether I’ve recently had an accident that I could claim for. Upon questioning them as to where they had got my number from, they started lying and saying that a door to door survey was conducted in my area and I had given my number out. I told them I had not participated in any such survey and would never give my number out on the doorstep. I then asked to speak to a manager, who told me a family member must’ve given the number out, I told him that no they hadn’t (my husband works long hours and nobody comes calling for surveys at the times he is at home, and I have two young daughters who most definitely don’t answer the door, participate in surveys or even know our phone number in order to give it out). When I said this he said one of my neighbours must’ve given it… umm I don’t think so! Primarily as my neighbours don’t have my phone number but also they wouldn’t do that. The person on the line was becoming increasingly rude and at this point he told me loudly that he was too busy to talk to me and I was wasting his time and he hung up on me – a so-called ‘manager’. Both the people I spoke to said their company was called ‘ABCD’, which I can’t find online so again I have a feeling they were lying. If I could find the company details, I would make an official complaint against them – how dare they ring MY house and then verbally abuse me!!

Lubna says:
28 March 2011

Sorry just remembered I did ask both people that I spoke to what their number was, this is the number I was given: 0161 408 9959. However when I dial 1471, there is no number available, so either withheld or overseas I guess!

Alison says:
2 May 2011

I’ve received several calls in the past week from someone calling themselves ‘Utilities Services’, asking who my energy provider is. Each time the caller has had an American accent and when I ask how they have obtained my telephone number and name (I’m ex-directory) they say from Human Resources London. I have repeatedly asked them to remove my number from their contact list but they become verbally aggressive and pushy, leaving me no alterative other than cutting them off!!
I am registered with TPS but I don’t think this covers calls from outside the UK.
Does anyone know who these people are and how I can put a stop to these calls as I’m unable to find any information on them when I’ve Googled them?

Louisa says:
19 June 2011

I too have had two calls today from ‘Utilities Services’. They both sounded like they were from India. The first call this morning I hung up on. They always say they are doing a survey and want to save me money. But they never say at the end how they are going to save me money. The second call I decided to ask some questions of my own. I asked the name of the company, are they uk based and what was the phone number and address of their head office. This is what i was told. Utilities Services is the name, couldn’t give me a phone number, and the address i was given of 12 eoioudh close, coldbridge, seems to be fake. So i am no closer to finding out who they are and why they are calling me. Usually they ask how i pay for my gas and electric and what company I’m with. I usually tell them a load of lies and that way i feel i’m not giving anything away. The second call ended in them hanging up on me, as i kept asking wquestions and he got all flustered and hung up. So i think from now on I will be asking them questions not the other way round. I am on the TPS service, but this doesn’t seem to stop them. It is very annoying especailly when it is on a sunday or tea time when they call. If anyone gets any inform on how to stop these calls please do share with the rest of us. Thank you.

Six weeks ago, on 25 May, I had a VERY minor car accident where another driver gently brushed her wheel arch against mine causing slight damage to the metal on both cars. We amicably exchanged details and in due course I informed my insurance company, Esure, and later heard from hers, Privilege, who happily admitted liability and were very helpful in arranginging my repair. Early in June I had a call from a man at an unnamed “claims management company” who asked me how I had been feeling since the accident. He seemed disappointed when I told him I was unhurt and refused to say who had given them my home number and hung up. Yesterday I had three calls to my mobile from an “Unknown” number. When I answered the third the caller (on a bad connection with a Chinese accent) identified himself as “Me” and asked how I had been feeling since my recent car accident. When pressed, he gave the name “Mee Yung and Company”, but huing up when I asked where he had obtained my number. Do you think both Esure and Privilege have been selling my number without my permission, and should I ask them for a share of the fee? Surely I deserve something for unwittingly sharing my personal information with ambulance-chasers, don’t I?

DAVID, Essex says:
4 August 2011

I have just had a call on my home number saying that a car belomnging to someone on my number had been involved in an accident. It hadnt.
The call was from 01206 91399.
The caller was very keen fro me to keep talking. I didnt and hung up. What is the motivation for all of this?

I’ve also had recent phone calls to my home phone number and texts to my mobile offering legal services to make a claim related to a recent car accident.

Havent had one !

Having read the above wonder if it is connected to getting a couple of quotes for sorting rust out on my cars wheel arches ?

Calls from a local number asking if anyone in the household has had an accident, this company is masquerading as a local number, when I try to call it back there is no such number. No one has had an accident or any type or a claim for at least five years, and not at this address or phone number should I be worried incase someone is using mynew phone number?.

Priti Dodhia says:
12 August 2011

How do I stop the companies calling me…. they have been calling and texting me for last two years and I am getting fed up of. The Mobile phone company three cant do anything about it. I have tried sending “stop” text message service and its not working… My accident was like 4 years ago and I cant understand why they keep calling. If I wanted to claim for an injury I would have done it at the time. idiots they they are.

manpreet says:
10 February 2012

I must have got loads of these calls i dont think they get the information from your insurance otherwise they would have the details of your accident and in my case the address on my policy is not the same as where Im living i still use my parents address though i moved out there a year ago but live still right near them so that shows they are talking b******t and i never had an accident in over 8 years. I think they get your info from some other scammers they also claim they get it from some national traffic accident bureau or somewhere.
I think they are tryin to get your personal information from you or the accident so they can claim the money and keep it fro themselves.
What annoys me if i did have an accident dont they think i would have a brain and deal with it myself and make the claims not wait around to receive a call from some idiot in India to tell me i can get compensation.
Everytime they call i just play them and take the p**s by makin up some funny stories about a bank robbery working as a getaway driver or as a hitman in driveby shooting and gettin chased by the police but they are sometimes so thick they Dont know wht a bank robbery is as their English is so crap.
Then again these stories have worked as i don’t get calls for months afterwards. They also claim they are from Manchester or London and give u some bogus numbers which Dont exist.
My best bet is to either answer the phone and leave the fone with them on the line so its them paying a heavy price for the call or pretend they ve just called a police station.

Watch out when you are on Twitter or register on Forums because some are limited companies who are really financial services . Found this out when said not publishing truthful reviews which said were libellous when could prove so started investigating via ethical sites ??!

Chris V says:
9 September 2011

This morning, I received a call to my landline from yet another claims company (number withheld)concerning my car accident (last December – why now?). For the past few weeks, I have had calls to my mobile from two other companies. When I told the latest caller that I was registered with the telephone preference service, he called me a “motherf*****”. It was very distressing. I have spoken to my insurers and they were adamant that they do not sell customers’ personal details. Contrary to what the callers use as their excuse when questioned as to where they got my details from, I have not been online to search for insurance since my accident, so the only other possibility (I think) is the garage where the repairs were done. I really wish something could be done to stop the calls.

PS I suspect they may have possibly been loan sharks as various people on another reputable site were complaining had been cold called.

Masha says:
21 October 2011

I’ve had about 10 of these calls in the last 24 hours, no-one in my house owns a car or even has a driving licence! WHen my partner got fed up and hung up on them, they left a message on my landline calling me a motherxxxxxx, son of a w***e etc etc. This can’t be right, I’m in TPS and am ex-directory so have no idea where they got my details from, they rang 4 times on the trot this morning (if it’s the same company)

Dottie says:
22 October 2011

I had a call this afternoon from a “gentleman” who called himself John. It sounded like he was speaking from a call centre in India. He also said that he was ringing from the British Investigation Unit and he wanted to ask if I or any other member of my family had had an accident in the last 2 years. I said no and I asked why he said my name is John and I am calling form the ….. I told him I was not interested and I put the phone down. He called me straight back and said why did you put the phone down on me! (I could hear someone talking to him in the background like he was being coached) I just put the phone down – and he rang again! I said why are you calling me!!! he went ohh and put the phone down, very creepy!

Charlie says:
2 December 2011

I know that it is the insurance companies giving this information out as I had a minor accident with no damage and no claims made so no other company was involved. I only let them know because it says in the policy that you should report all incidents. Since then I have had 4 calls from different companies asking if they can represent me. Also quite a few silent calls on my ansaphone. WHAT ABOUT DATA PROTECTION THEN. Just to put the boot in – when it came time to renew they put my premium up as they said that having an incident made a future accident more likely. I had not had an accident or claim for nearly 20 years qnd this incident was not my fault. I will not say the ins co name but think home of the Beatles and the name of the last Queen before this one. No prizes for guessing.

Marilyn says:
27 October 2012

Replying to Charlie – the same ins co did the self same thing to me. I was in France in my own car, ran over a block of concrete in a car park and out of courtesy let them know. I then took it to a local garage who checked underneath for me and reported no damage. So no other vehicle was involved, no claim was made yet that same company told me that as I had had an ‘INCIDENT’ that it would affect my premium. I have had dozens of cold callers since and I am sure that a garage in the middle of france did not give out my UK phone No. as they did not have it. So I KNOW that it was the Beatles and the old Queen who were responsible.

Marcia says:
3 December 2011

I still don’t get it, I haven’t had an accident, I don’t drive, I don’t have an insurance policy that would sell misinformation about me, its a mystery! Anyway for me at least the message seems to have got through since I got one resaonable chap (the rest were swearing abuse at me!) and I asked him to remove me from their database since I wasn’t going to pretend that I’d been in an accident for him 🙂

Masha says:
10 February 2012

I’m still getting several of these a week, they don’t believe I don’t drive, travel in a car, etc etc, they keep promising to remove me from their databases but clearly the message isn’t getting though!

I have also had the same problem as the previous people commenting, but i can not register with TPS because i live in Scotland. So even the service that may have been able to help me can not.

Masha says:
22 February 2012

It won’t help you anyway. I’m still getting them pretty much every day, and to compound matters I registered with a phone number look up website for some research I was doing, I’m with BT and ex-directory and blow me down if my full name, address and phone number weren’t on the site!!

tim says:
28 July 2012

About 3 weeks ago I started getting calls like this. There was no accident. Several times a week I get a call asking if I want to try for compensation from a crash which never occured. Each time I explain this (some idiots still continue, clearly dont speak englis), and request they remove me from their list- most do so, but I am still having my details sold by someone and so another company rings me several days later

Maybe it’s like junk email. If you respond in any way your name is kept on the list or joins a premium list. I am now convinced that it helps to let the answering machine deal with withheld number calls. Years ago that just meant that cold callers would ring back frequently until they got an answer, but that does not seem to be happening now.

A few years ago, I had serious problems with cold callers making “silent calls” (up to 12 a day) to my landline.Official compalints were registered with my telephone company Virgin, and the Police. The latter suggested I change my number – I replied NO, as it would only restart within weeks. The culprit was caught (an unnamed marketing company) and simply instructed by the Police to cease “harassing” me. At the Police station, the duty officer nervously informed me that he could not identify who or what had rung me. I replied that I was aware that information could not be divulged under to the Data Protection Act. When asked, the officer did state that he could pass the information on to my solicitor if and when I initiated civil court action (which I did not). In short, a doorstep cold caller who harassed a householder may be criminally prosecuted, but silent calls from a marketing company would only be subject to civil court action at the expense of the victim – even this assumes that they fall within the jursidction of Engish law. Overseas companies (making these calls) may ignore English courts. During this whole time, I could not allow elderly relatives to stay with me for fear of the consequences. Now, my landline number is only given to organisations I can trust, such as my bank. All others will have an email address and mobile number. Any spam text is forwarded onto the orange telecom spam number 7726 on the advice of WHICH.

I don’t think anybody is passing on your details at all in a lot of cases – they are just “fishing” at random with the phone book, hoping to strike somebody who has had an accident lately. I get these calls quite often, and I haven’t had any kind of accident for at least five years.

Marcia says:
25 October 2012

I’m ex-directory, therefore someone IS selling my details!