Don't be conned

One of the curses of modern society is the number of people trying to trick you out of your money by posing as someone else.

Some of these attempted frauds are so obvious they wouldn't fool a savvy ten-year old, but some are very sophisticated indeed.

Anybody reading this probably finds their email inbox full of messages from people pretending to be their bank (or lots of other people's banks) or their Internet Service Provider  and asking you to confirm your login details or they'll have to cut you off for security reasons.

One of the most recent tricks is websites which pretend to be either a large company such as BT, or an agency through which they can be contacted, and which then overcharge any customers or potential customers who used the contact details given in an attempt to contact the company concerned

For example. there are a large number of websites which pretend to be BT or associated sites and give phone numbers on which people can supposedly - or actually, but for an excessive price - contact BT to order something, report a fault or make a complaint.

Such websites are often designed in such a way as to mislead customers into thinking they are calling the company concerned, eg they may have a prominent display of words like BT Customer Services followed by a phone number.

Unfortunately anyone who rings these numbers is all too often calling a premium rate phone number and could be charged anything from £1 or more per minute to listen to long pre-recorded messages. Which may perhaps, eventually, give you the number you needed to ring in the first place after you have made a generous contribution to their own coffers.


If you forget the contact details of your phone, gas, or water supplier, insurance company or bank, and have to search for them on the internet, you need to make sure you are definitely calling the company concerned and not someone else who will charge you to give you the correct number.

And if the company you wanted to ring was BT,  you can also bear in mind that

• All BT contact numbers from landlines are free and begin with 0800.

(Some BT numbers have a three digit short form: for example instead of 0800 800150 to pay your bill you can ring 150 which is also free, or to report a fault on a residential telephone line the full number is 0800 800151, but 151 also works and again is free.)

• All BT contact numbers from mobiles are charged at the national rate and begin with 0330 (You can call 0800 numbers for free from some mobiles – check with your mobile provider).


Jim said…
an e-mail that came around at work had me a little concerned.

Apparently, another thing going at the moment, is that a group will place a lifelike doll in a carry chair at the side of a road. When a person (usually a woman) stops to check if the child is ok, then they are beaten and robbed, often dragged away from the road and raped too, then left (often left for dead after being heavily beaten).

Just wanted to pass this info on really. If you see what seems to be a child at the side of a road do not stop, do not leave your car. Instead report the incident to the police stating where you saw the "child" at the earliest opportunity.
Chris Whiteside said…
You're right that one cannot be too careful.
Chris Whiteside said…
I have declined to accept a couple of anonymous comments on this thread making wild and unsubstantiated accusations about recent Conservative campaigns.

If the people who posted them have something serious to say, then kindly substantiate or explain what accusations you are making, and sign your names to it, and then we can debate it.

Wild anonymous accusations which are so vague that I haven't a clue what you're writing about are just a waste of your time and mine.
Anonymous said…
Send us all your details if you want a postal vote, you'll pass it on to the Council but not before collating it for yourselves. Dishonest in it's presentation, I hope Mr Rhodes isn't going to be the same.
Chris Whiteside said…
Thank you for explaining what you were getting at, though I note you still won't sign your name.

There are at least two fundamental differences between the letter you are complaining about and the activity which was the subject of my original blog post.

The first is that the Conservative party was not taking a single penny from anyone who responded to the communication you refer to, while the businesses my article was about do charge people, often at premium rates.

The second is that all Conservative communications during the campaign were clearly identified as such, had an imprint, and could not be mistaken by any reasonable person as a communication from the council, while the websites my original post was about are often made to look like they are part of a big company such as BT.

So I really don't think it's the same thing at all.
Chris Whiteside said…
And I don't accept that it is in any way dishonest, per se, to offer to take details and pass them on to the people who can and will organise what the person is asking for, whether it is a postal vote or action on a billing problem.

It is only dishonest if you pretend to be someone other than who you are, which none of the Conservative leaflets did, or charge people without making clear that you are doing so, and the Conservatives did not charge so much as a single penny to anyone who responded to the letters about postal votes.

The purpose of the exercise was to maximise the turnout amoung Conservative supporters by helping them to get postal votes if required.

Along the way we may also have helped a few non-Conservative voters to get postal votes - we have no way of knowing for certain how the people who responded to the letter voted - but probably not many, because people who are not planning to vote for a particular party will not usually ask that party for any form of assistance with their vote.

For that very reason, there was no attempt to conceal who the letter was coming from.

Yes, we did this to maximise our chances of winning the election: all parties do that, it's called campaigning. But there was no attempt to trick anyone.

It is dishonest to lie. It is dishonest to cheat people out of their money.

Helping or encouraging people to vote, even if you know that your supporters are the people who are most likely to take you up on it, is not dishonest in any way, shape or form, and anyone who claims otherwise does not understand the meaning of the concept of dishonesty.
Anonymous said…
If your motives were honest in "Helping or encouraging people to vote", then any honest broker would have had the details sent directly to the relevant council, and not back to a political party for the information to be collated before being passed on. To me that is dishonest.

1.Behaving or prone to behave in an untrustworthy or fraudulent way.
2.Intended to mislead or cheat.

Chris Whiteside said…
Mr or Ms Anonymous, you may quote from the dictionary but you do not appear to understand the meaning of the words you quote any more than you appear to understand what information is already available by law to registered political parties.

The political parties already know the name and address of all electors, we have this from the electoral register. We also know who has applied for a postal vote: the returning officer provides this information to all political parties as well.

Your paranoid fantasies only display your own ignorance because the information which you are suggesting that the Conservatives were trying in some underhand way to acquire is already provided to us, and to all other registered political parties, openly and legally.

In response to your first point, well actually we do also encouraged people to apply directly to their local council for a postal vote, and undoubtedly will do so again - I usually carry a form with which people can do exactly this with me while canvassing until the close of applications for postal votes.

Sadly we did not have the resource to canvass all the half million or so voters in Cumbria, though we called on as many as we could.

The letter which we used to encourage people to register for a postal vote and help them to do so was used because it has a proven track record in getting people registered and for no other reason.

There was no deception involved, and nothing about the letter which an intelligent and well-informed person would describe as misleading, fraudulent, or cheating.

I will not be accepting any further anonymous posts on this subject either on this thread or elsewhere on the blog. If anyone has anything further to say on this subject and wants to say it on my blog you will have to sign your name.
Chris Whiteside said…
Dates of birth are also already made available to registered political parties with the electoral register in certain circumstances where they are relevant to an election campaign or to postal vote registration.

If someone is a teenager it is necessary to check whether they have hit their eighteenth birthday, and if not when they will do so, to establish from what date they are eligible to vote.

Applications for a postal vote must provide the returning officer with the date of birth and signature of the elector, because these are used by the council as a validation check that the vote really came from the elector to whom a postal ballot was sent.

The only reason we asked for any of this information was because it was necessary to help people register for postal votes.

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