A couple of days ago I received this telephone call, the transcript of which is as follows:
You have been randomly selected to receive a Florida Bahamas holiday with all accommodations.
To hear more details press "9".
Now I don't know about you, but to me this is an obvious scam. In fact even the UK Home Office thinks so, and yet when I contacted my phone company, British Telecom, they were rather less than helpful, and indeed the attitude of the person I spoke to was borderline abusive, as she persistently cut me off mid-sentence; insisted this was not a scam; and vehemently denied that there was anything BT could do about it - with a surprisingly aggressive tone, almost as though she was defending something. However, she was somewhat less than forthcoming about what that "something" might be.
I'm quite prepared to believe BT are in fact completely impotent in the face of such abuse of their network, but the very least they could do is hear me out, before cutting me off like an unwelcome guest, rather than listening to the genuine concerns of a paying customer.
And oh how I pay, and pay and pay and pay again, for a service I barely use at all (for voice calls anyway). In fact if it wasn't for my ADSL Internet connection, I probably wouldn't even bother having a land line at all, and yet I am nonetheless billed around £60 ($120) a quarter just for the "privilege" of being on their network. The actual cost of my calls is typically less than £5, but "Option 1" (which is actually the line rental and not "optional" at all) and VAT (yes folks, communicating is a "luxury" that must be taxed) inflates the final cost of my £5 calls by a whopping 1200%.
For that kind of "mark up" (i.e. blatant rip-off), you'd think the least BT could do is offer a little sympathy, when the inadequacies of their service causes a customer problems.
I'm also rather intrigued as to why they were so insistent that this call was not a scam. How do they know for a fact that it wasn't? To me, this sounds deeply suspicious. Could it be that BT are suffering some conflict of interest between their business and residential customers, and that the very thing I am complaining about is actually a source of BT's income?
I've done everything within my rather limited power to prevent nuisance calls, including signing up with the TPS (Telephone Preference Service), and activating Anonymous Call Rejection, but since these scam calls originate from outside BT's network; don't provide Caller ID information; and are therefore classified as "out of network" rather than "withheld number", apparently the ACR system will not block such calls.
Well IMHO it should.
Now certainly anyone with even an ounce of common sense should just hang up on such calls, but then not everyone has the benefit of common sense, or even full control of their faculties. Take the elderly, for example, especially those suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
In addition to the obvious lack of mental agility, such people tend to be more trusting, having come from an era of simpler times. I recall my mother reminiscing about how her phone calls years ago were typically preceded by a long conversation with the operator, with whom she was on first-name terms. She still hasn't quite grasped the concept of talking to a machine, as with so many of today's customer "service" systems.
There are many such people in Britain, and indeed according to government figures there are some 700,000 Alzheimer sufferers in Britain today, with that figure set to rise to over 1.7 Million by 2051.
Who is going to protect such people from the ever-increasing threat of scam telephone calls?
Not BT, apparently.
Meanwhile, I've made an official complaint to Ofcom, the The UK telecoms ombudsman. Let's hope they're more helpful than BT.
Update: Don't get mad ... get even: