Cold callers irritate us all with calls at terrible times, flogging all sorts of rubbish. And even if you sign up for TPS, they can still get your number.
Why do I bother answering the home phone when I am doing something else? It's rarely welcome – and often annoying.
So there I was, on Jubilee Sunday, watching the River Thames pageant when the phone rang. It was an Indian call centre guy with a pretend English name and a mangled version of mine. I shouldn't complain about his English – my Hindi is non-existent.
He offered a "marketing survey" which would "only take a minute or two". As there was a bit of a lull in the parade, I decided to go along with it. But it soon became clear that this was not the usual run through of dozens of categories such as gym membership or motoring followed by the names of major firms and charities, all part of a process to ensure that subsequent calls and mailshots would be better targeted.
Outside the rules
Instead, he was an investment warm-up man. The financial watchdog, the Financial Services Authority (FSA), bans cold calling. But the investment was carbon credit trading which is not regulated and so outside cold calling rules.
"Where did you find my name and phone number?" I asked. Now the beauty of this marketing call was that he claimed my details came from a previous marketing call. And no doubt that one had relied on one before that. So, I might be signed up to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), which is intended to prevent cold calling, but I wasn't cold at all. Because of my previous "marketing call" I was now a warm, even hot, prospect.
He also had my address as I realised when he offered to post me a carbon credit brochure – it has not yet arrived and I reckon it won't. The reason? Offering to send out something gives the next person in the carbon sales chain the chance to phone me to ask if I have received it. When I say "no", he'll have the excuse to pressure me again – and then have another go when the booklet finally appears.
Move home and change your phone numbers
I now realise there is no way that I can escape these calls without drastic action. I would have to change my home phone and mobile numbers, although altering the latter won't prevent those "we know you have had an accident and can claim £3,750" texts. It would probably help if I moved home as well. But that won't be enough if I am stupid enough in the future to tick (or sometimes simply forget to untick) those boxes which ask if I am happy to receive communications from "carefully selected third parties."
I once thought that meant that if I bought a computer, I would receive information about software and accessories. Wrong. Instead, the third parties are "carefully selected" to be those that pay the most for a list. That then ends up with a list broker who sells my information on again and again.
How I ended up on the list
I asked a law firm acting for a carbon credit trader about cold calling and how my details were on the list. The answer was in solicitor speak so it was hardly a model of clarity – in fact, it was confusingly vague and without any pretence precision. My comments are in brackets.
It said: "Unlike many other brokerages, our client company does not rely on 'investment register' leads (presumably from shareholder lists). Instead, our client only uses stems (whatever they are) from people who have completed telephone surveys (whatever content they have) and opted-in to receiving further details from third parties. Of the total amount of data purchased, this constitutes 60% (a surprisingly round and presumably inaccurate number).
The remaining 40% of data originates from leads including tailor-made (not my tailor) telemarketing campaigns, email bulletins, email campaigns and referrals."
So when you next get a call you think is cold, it isn't. It's piping hot and from one of the sources above.
Forget complaining about cold calling or asking where they got your details. Either slam the phone down as soon as you hear that unmistakeable call centre buzz – or waste their time by putting the receiver near a radio.
10 of the biggest consumer rip-offs
How your details end up in the hands of cold callers
Using a mobile phone to make and receive calls, send texts and browse the web while abroad can be extremely costly – especially if you are travelling outside the European Union (EU), where calls can cost up to 10 times as much as at home.
To avoid high charges, Carphone Warehouse suggests tourists ensure a data cap is in place, use applications to check data usage, turn off 'data roaming', avoid data-intensive applications such as Google Maps and YouTube and use wi-fi spots to update social networking sites.
Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) is supposed to help people to continue meeting their loan, mortgage or credit card repayments if they fall ill or lose their jobs. However, policies are often over-priced, riddled with exclusions and sold to people who could not make a claim if they needed to.
At one point, sale of this cover - which was often included automatically in loan repayments - was estimated to boost the banks' profits by up to £5 billion a year.
Now, though, consumers who were mis-sold PPI can fight back by complaining to the bank or lender concerned and taking their case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (08000 234567) should the response prove unsatisfactory.
It could be you, but let's face it, it probably won't be. In fact, buying a ticket for the Lotto only gives you a 1 in 13.9 million chance of winning the jackpot.
With odds like that, you would almost certainly be better off hanging on to your cash and saving it in a high-interest account.
No-frills airlines such as EasyJet may promote rock-bottom prices on their websites. But the overall fare you pay can be surprisingly high once extras such as luggage and credit card payment fees have been added - a process known as drip pricing.
Taking one piece of hold baggage on a return EasyJet flight, for example, adds close to £20 to the cost of your flight, while paying by credit card increases the price by a further £10.
It may therefore be worth comparing the total cost with that of a flight with a standard airline such as British Airways.
Cash advances, which include cash withdrawals, are generally charged at a much higher rate of interest than standard purchases.
While the average credit card interest rate is around 17%, a typical cash withdrawal of £500, for example, is charged at more than 26%.
What's more, as the interest accrues from the date of the transaction, rather than the next payment date, costs will mount up even if you clear your balance in full with your next payment.
Supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda often run promotions under which you can, for example, get three products for the price of two.
However, it is only worth taking advantage of these deals if you will actually use the products. Otherwise, you are simply buying for the sake of it, which is a waste of your hard-earned cash.
Buy a train ticket at the station on the day of travel and the price is likely to give you a shock - especially if you are travelling a long distance at a busy time of day.
However, you can cut the cost of train travel by 50% or more by going online and making the purchase beforehand - especially if you book 12 weeks in advance, which is when the cheapest tickets are on sale.
Other ways to reduce the price you pay include avoiding peak times and taking advantage of so-called carnet tickets, which allow you to buy, for example, 12 journeys for the price of 10.
Most High Street banks offer packaged accounts that come with monthly fees ranging from £6.50 up to as much as £40, with a typical account charging about £15 per month.
Various benefits, such as travel insurance and mobile phone insurance, are offered in return for this fee. But whether or not it is worth paying for them depends on your individual circumstances.