Nuisance calls are the bane of my life - as are unprompted texts. They assault my mobile at all hours, night and day.
I find the calls so annoying and invasive that I now leave my phone on permanent silent which kind of defeats the object of a mobile (I don’t have a landline at home). No wonder most of my friends have given up on me – ‘unsociable ginga, never answers his phone’.
Of course, my mother, still as matriarchal as she was 50 years ago when I was wearing shorts, isn’t impressed at all.
Voicemail message one: ‘Jeffrey, why didn’t you answer my last call?’ (Jeffrey, as opposed to Jeff, is a sure fire sign that mother is annoyed with me.)
Voicemail message two: ‘Jeffrey, where have you been? I’ve been worried!’ (I’m 57, mother, and quite capable most of the time of looking after myself.)
Voicemail message three: ‘Jeffrey, have you got a girlfriend yet ?’ (No I don’t mother dear but if I did you would be the last person on earth I would tell.)
Yes, even a frustrated mother (making her own version of nuisance calls) is better than a phone call from someone I don’t know - and have no desire getting to know - asking me whether I want to unlock my pension or make a payment protection insurance claim.
LEAVE ME ALONE. I’ll unlock my pension in my own good time. As for PPI, I’ve never bought the toxic stuff so you’re wasting your time.
Of course, there are some practical steps you can take to stem the tide of nuisance calls beyond putting your phone on silent.
For example, you can sign up to the Telephone Preference Service, thereby registering your wish not to receive unsolicited calls, although I bet you that some unwanted calls will still get through to you.
You can even complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office about nuisance calls. It is increasingly flexing its biceps in this area and fining serial offenders. Indeed, from Spring next year, not only will it be able to fine companies up to £500,000 but also the directors personally (again, up to £500,000). About time too I say.
As a personal finance journalist, I abhor all nuisance calls on intrusive grounds. But it is nuisance calls relating to pensions that trouble me the most. This is because many of the callers are fraudsters, looking to rob you of your pension, rather than with a PPI claims company where they are looking to take a slice of compensation you probably never thought you were entitled to.
Typically, they promise you early access to your pension fund – before the current minimum age of 55 allowed under pension freedom rules. In reality, they either steal your pension or decimate its value by the imposition of onerous charges and exposing you to frightening tax charges. A lifetime of financial misery invariably follows.
Although the regulators have promised to get tough on these fraudsters, they continue to thrive, primarily because many operate offshore in places such as Bermuda, Gibraltar and Malta and so are hard to hunt down.
In recent weeks, Darren Cooke, a respected financial adviser from Derby, has launched a parliamentary petition calling for all cold calls relating to pensions and investments to now be banned.
Cooke, who works for a company called Red Circle Financial Planning, is a down to earth individual who takes great pride in his work. But he hates with a vengeance anyone or anything that impugns the integrity of the financial services industry. Hence the petition.
To begin with, the petition went under the radar. But mutual insurer Royal London, financial services giant Hargreaves Lansdown and the boss of The Pensions Advisory Service (Michelle Cracknell) have all now put their weight behind it. As a result, interest is stirring.
If 10,000 souls sign the petition, the Government will be required to respond.
I’ve signed. Have you? Given Cracknell’s organisation is now warning people that their chances of getting back pension fund money from such scammers is ‘next to zero’, a ban on pension cold callers cannot come soon enough.
So sign NOW here.
Must go. Another voicemail from mother: ‘Jeffrey, I’ve just received a cold call, can you help.’
PS: Anyone wanting more information on how to counter the cold callers would do themselves no harm by visiting the website of consumer group Which? The relevant page is here.
Jeff Prestridge is Personal Finance Editor of The Mail on Sunday