This article was written by Tony Levene for lovemoney.com
The new year starts with a new cold caller - Andrew - telephoning me, keen to discuss "options". I assume the "options" will be highly geared financial products, where I bet on some market I have never heard of, and my chances of winning are non-existent.
I am wrong. The options have nothing to do with financial markets, real or made-up. Andrew says he is working with my local authority and that because I have fitted cavity wall insulation, I qualify for a number of subsidies. He says there are Government schemes in place to reward people who reduce carbon dioxide via green measures.
Of the three statements he comes out with, he manages three lies. This is nothing to do with my local authority, I don't have cavity wall insulation, and there are no such Government reward schemes.
Keep it comfortable
But Andrew has followed the first rule of cold calling – grab the potential victims' interest by offering something they are comfortable with. Many people, especially the elderly, trust local councils. And as the vast majority believe it's good to cut carbon, where's the harm in being rewarded for doing so?
I say I am not sure whether I have cavity wall insulation so he asks if I have had a new boiler fitted within the last ten years or double glazing. I agree to double glazing and am told that the scheme still applies.
I ask where he is calling from (it's a call centre). He does not seem clear on this – it could be Clacton or Chelmsford. He says: "I've only been here for 18 months so I am still learning."
He adds: "What do you want? A new bathroom or a new bedroom or a new kitchen? We will find the promotion you are entitled to and our company will subsidise 40% thanks to the local authority scheme."
Closing the deal
Later, his colleague Robert calls. He re-iterates that my details come from the council. He actually names the council, though in truth it's not hard to guess as it's part of my address.
He offers a new bathroom, then a new kitchen, saying that I'll be "pleasantly surprised" by what I'm entitled to. He seems to suggest that he will fit 40% of a new kitchen for nothing, leaving the rest up to me. "Could I have just four out of ten units replaced then?" I tentatively ask.
Probing further, it appears the "local council incentive" is a 40% discount.
Now he moves towards closing the deal. He says "You'll find out more when we leave the information with you. This won't be a salesman who'll stay for hours, but a qualified surveyor who will show you everything. He gets a flat fee, not commission."
This is nothing more than a call centre trying to drum up work for home improvement companies, most of which routinely offer a meaningless "40% discount". It has nothing to do with local councils or government grants. The caller does not give a phone number or company name. But this will work on the vulnerable.
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