VICTORIA BISCHOFF: We need tips for cold callers

Could it really be true that fraud cases accelerate because we are too polite to hang up cold calls?

Two major banks think so, and they each launched awareness campaigns in the same week.

Santander said his survey found that one in five Britons believe it would be rude to put the phone down, and is working with the Chelsea Pensioners to encourage potential victims to tell scammers to ‘politely stop’ .

Scam Threat: Top tips for dealing with cold callers include resisting getting caught up in chatter and turning the conversation around so you’re the one asking the questions

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs’ Marcus found that one in four British adults said their politeness makes them more susceptible to fraud, and has published The Good Manners Guide To Outsmarting Scammers, in collaboration with Debrett’s “etiquette experts”.

Top tips include resisting getting caught up in small talk and turning the conversation around so you’re the one asking the questions.

“If the scammer asks, “How are you?” it’s fine to reply, “I’m fine, thank you.” But you should avoid the kneeling polite reply of “How are you?” Instead, block the exchange by saying, “Who am I talking to?” advises the guide.

“Ask the caller how he got your number. If this feels too bold, you could say something like, “I’m interested in knowing how you got my number, as I generally don’t make it available,” it continues.

With fraud losses totaling £2.3bn in the year to April, I am reluctant to criticize attempts to raise awareness of scams.

But today, fraudsters are skilled manipulators, often posing as authoritative figures such as the police, the tax authorities and even the victim’s own bank.

They are adept at exploiting our fears and know so much about their target that their tall tales are utterly convincing.

So this rather condescending advice strikes me as woefully inadequate – and a poor use of funds when many victims are routinely let out of their pockets.

But I’d be fascinated to hear your thoughts on the theory. Would you be reluctant to hang up a cold caller for the sake of good manners? Judging by your previous emails on the subject, I suspect you have some more imaginative answers up your sleeve.

consumer hero

Throughout the pandemic, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has proven to be a force to be reckoned with.

The watchdog was quick with a new Covid-19 Taskforce and published comprehensive guidelines to help consumers understand their rights.

When it became clear that some holiday companies were treating customers unfairly, the investigation yielded more than £200 million in refunds.

In fact, the CMA estimates that its work last year saved consumers a total of at least £2 billion.

So it’s good news that the government plans to give it more power to protect customers from online exploitation.

Ministers have finally recognized the need to adapt consumer law to modern times. Subscription traps will be the first in the firing line, forcing companies to make it clear what customers are signing up for and let them cancel easily.

Fake online reviews will also be targeted, banning “consumer catfish” from paying someone to write fake testimonials.

And there will be an end to “other dodgy tactics used to defraud online shoppers,” such as beating customers with extra fees that aren’t clearly advertised before they reach the checkout.

There is no doubt that the CMA Towers staff map out their work for them – but they are the best people for the job.

Apple approved

I usually ignore notifications that pop up on my smartphone. It’s almost always the annoying Calm app, which I downloaded when I was a little stressed one day, reminding me to breathe.

But last week my phone finally had something useful to say. Loyal readers may remember last year grumbling about how my new phone had facial recognition instead of fingerprint technology. It has proven to be most annoying in Covid times as it doesn’t work while wearing a mask.

Well, Apple’s tech gods have heard my screams and have come up with a solution – at least for those with a smart watch.

“Use your Apple Watch to unlock iPhone when Face ID detects a face with a mask,” the message read. Hallelujah! Another reason not to ditch the mask just yet.

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on it, we can earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money and use it for free. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.