Call me naive but I thought action had been taken to stop nuisance telephone calls.

We all saw the stories late last year that company directors whose firms make nuisance calls had become directly liable and could face fines of up to £500,000.

The new rules mean the UK’s data protection watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office, can target individual company director and not just fine the firm. The aim of the new regulations was to stop company bosses declaring bankruptcy and setting up again under a different name when they are caught for nuisance calls.

And to be honest, the clampdown was long overdue, with Ofcom estimating British consumers received 3.9 billion nuisance phone calls and texts in 2017.

At the time, digital minister Margot James said: “There is now no hiding place for the small minority of rogue directors who have previously tried to escape justice. We are determined to stamp this menace out, and this new law is the latest in a series of measures to rid society of the plague of nuisance calls.”

And that’s all well and good. I applauded their efforts. A couple of years ago I worked from home for six weeks or so and was staggered at the number of nuisance calls I received during the day.

Some days it reached double figures – and that is despite the fact I’d signed up for the Telephone Preference Service which was supposed to stop this sort of thing happening.

So surely with the new regulations, I should see a dramatic reduction in the number of unwanted nuisance calls then.

Well yes and no. UK-based companies seem to have backed off but the problem now lies elsewhere.

Take last Friday for example. My first nuisance call (from a real person) was from someone who said his name was Tony (didn’t realise Tony was a popular name on the Sub-Continent).

He told me he was a Microsoft-certified engineer and he was calling me from a company called something like IT Support London.

I had nothing else to do at the time so I played along with him.

Apparently, Tony had detected a problem with my internet or computer operating system which was going to cause me significant problems if I didn’t let him fix it.

My system, he said, would have been wide open to hackers who could have stolen my online identity and gained access to my bank and credit card details but not to worry, he could fix the problem remotely from ‘London’.

I thanked him profusely for coming to my rescue and asked him how he proposed to do that.

Well, he said, all I needed to do was to log on to my laptop and he would tell me where to find my IP address.

Once he had that, he said, he could access my computer system and fix the mysterious and unspecified problem.

(I know the problem was mysterious and unspecified because I asked him what it was and he couldn’t tell me.

This doesn’t come as a surprise really as the problem was as real as a unicorn sprinkled with fairy dust or his name being Tony or him being based in London.) I was bored by this point and told him he was a liar and was just scamming people and that he could ‘go away’. Tony slammed the phone down on me.

About 30 minutes later, I had my second nuisance call of the day.

This time, it was a recorded message telling me VisaSecure had noticed an unauthorised transaction of £600 on my account (no mention of which particular account, of course) and I needed to press 1 on my phone immediately to resolve the problem.

I put the phone down. But full marks for persistence.

I had that exact same call no fewer than five more times during the course of the day. I very much suspect this was a variation on the so-called Wangiri’ scam, where fraudsters call from overseas multiple times to attract your attention.

A victim returning the call or pressing 1 will be connected to a premium rate service for a sizeable sum of money.

And to round off my day, I had my final call at some time after 10pm from ‘BT’.

It said my internet service provider had had an issue in processing my last payment, and as a result, my internet would be disconnected in 24 hours if I didn’t press 1 and pay up.

Yep, I’m with Virgin Media.

Needless to say, I didn’t press 1.

Now I like to think I’m fairly switched on when it comes to this sort of thing but it does make you wonder just how many people fall for them, especially the elderly.

Looks to me like the Government’s crackdown on nuisance calls hasn’t gone far enough.


By Guardian columnist The Fly in the Ointment