This article originally published in The Northern Daily Leader on 23 July 2011.
The ‘Do Not Call Register’ is a great idea – apparently signing up to the register means you won’t be troubled by pesky telemarketers, who have a knack for knowing when you have just sat down for dinner. Last week, while my wife and I were preoccupied with convincing our six month old son Jack, that liquidised pumpkin is a tasty food source, we were interrupted by a telephone call from ‘Brian’. In hindsight we should have just ignored the call, but we had been expecting a call from a family member.
Brian seemed to have skilfully evaded the restrictions of the ‘Do Not Call Register’, as it quickly became clear that Brian was neither friend nor family. However he did have some alarming news – apparently his company (which he failed to name) had detected, over the internet, that our home computer was corrupted or infected by viruses. Much of the conversation was actually inferred, as there were some language difficulties, but the gist of the call was that we needed to switch on our computer immediately and Brian would help us resolve our problems. Naturally, feeding Jack was more pressing, so we declined Brian’s advice, though I did get his number to call him back later.
Once dinner was finished, I entered Brian’s telephone number in Google, and was rewarded with a lot of information and many complaints about Brian’s employer. Apparently Brian was planning to show us the error log on our computer, which always contains a large number of innocuous warnings which have no impact on the ability of your computer to work correctly. Brian would then convince us that the only way to ‘fix’ these problems was to install (and pay for) some software provided by his company.
Essentially Brian wanted to sell us a product we didn’t need, by identifying a problem we didn’t have (and it wasn’t even illegal). Unfortunately there are also (still) many ‘Brian’s’ in the financial services industry – despite a lengthy ongoing process to clean up the industry, some financial advisers identify problems you don’t have and then try to sell you products you don’t need. Your response should be the same as mine – do some research, talk to friends or family and don’t feel compelled to do anything that makes you uncomfortable. And could somebody fix the ‘Do Not Call Register’!