Recently I started to receive several mystery calls from the same landline number on my mobile phone. I found the area code was in Carmarthen. That's nearly 250 miles away in south-west Wales.
I don't know anyone in that area, so I dialled the number. The message said "our office is now closed", which was odd for mid-morning. Even odder, there were no office hours stated at all.
The 01267 number appears to lead to a recruitment agency. Why would I want a job finder in Wales? And why would it want to contact me? Especially as the firm appears to no longer be in business.
Numbers can change owners, and delving deeper, I find the number actually now belongs to an ambulance-chasing claims firm.
It specialises in payment protection insurance (PPI) and injury claims. According to victims of its smooth-talking agents, it's one of those firms which persuades those who have never held PPI that they have a legitimate claim. It comes out with all of the usual garbage lines about "new government legislation" and "special funds".
It's much the same with personal injury claims. "Never been involved in an accident where there's a blame? Never mind. We'll put in a claim, anyway." Many claims firms work on the basis that some insurers will pay a £500 claim without checking, as it's cheaper than a costly probe.
Swamped with calls
I'm lucky. So far, I have only had a handful of missed calls from this outfit. Others have suffered far more. Some report a credit card number request, where the firm asks for £1 to "prove your identity". This can be legitimate – mobile phone companies do it, for example. But would you risk handing over your details to a company like this? It also charges the the standard £499 which is refundable if they decide not to proceed with a claim. Of course, they do whatever they can to get you to make a claim, whether one is warranted or not.
No one ever seems to get an answer via a landline – the advantage to the claims folk of only replying to a mobile call is that it enables them to create a list of "warm respondents" who it can then bombard with texts and voice calls. Their target audience is also more likely to answer a mobile than a home telephone. And it's easy to use autodiallers.
Unless you know someone who might phone from a Carmarthen number, never answer these calls. Should it be legitimate, then the caller can always leave a message or send a text.
Regulators are doing nothing
Sadly, our regulatory authorities are doing nothing. The Telephone Preference Service is little more than a joke. Firms like this claim victims have agreed to "marketing calls". And as it does not send out initial messages via text message, there is no way of texting STOP.
Blocking the number is little help as the firm has a whole range of identities, although mostly with the Carmarthen code 01267.
Some of its operatives have suggested to callers that it is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. It does not seem to be, although one of the many names it uses is very similar to an unconnected and legitimate firm. But it is regulated by the Ministry of Justice, whose record in controlling pest calls and other dubious activities from claims companies is patchy at best.
It's time that all regulated claims management companies stopped these calls and texts completely as a condition of continuing to hold a licence.
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