It happened again today. Twice. I am quietly minding my own business, grabbing a few quiet minutes of contemplation and solitude during my morning ablutions, well working on a sudoku actually, when – the phone rings.
I rapidly terminate my business in the vain hope that the trilling of the telling-bone is a customer, who having heard what a wonderful job I do of installing Solar PV, has decided that they want me and only me to fit them a system.
Trousers around my knees I dash to my operations centre under the stairs and make a desperate grab for the receiver which I eagerly thrust to my ear and answer “Good morning, Solarize.” That’s the name of the business in case you were wondering.
“Hello,” says an all too familiar voice, “this is an important message about your payment protection insurance…” At which point I slam the receiver back into the cradle and return to the bathroom cursing my robot stalker for yet another ruined moment.
She is tenacious, I’ll give her that. It has been about eighteen months since the calls started. Once or twice a week to begin with but now she rings daily. And she has friends that harass me too. There’s the “Our records indicate that you may be owed…” text pest; the guy that stole my website address and now bombards me with spam about great job offers that don’t exist; the Nigerian Government official (he has obviously heard about my legendary honesty) who is absolutely desperate to deposit $10,000,000 in my bank account; the countless hordes of people I never met that seem to think that I need Viagra (I assure you I do not!); and my personal favourite – the person who rings and never speaks, then hangs up after about 20 seconds.
Okay, some of these web pests could be eliminated with a good spam filter you might say, but it is not as easy as you think. Anyone who runs an internet presence putting their email and a contact phone number out there for all to see is leaving themselves wide open for the kind of targeting that I have been subjected to.
But when you hope to receive mail from people looking to enlist your services, how do you teach your mail client to discriminate between the email containing the latest scam and the genuine customer looking for a quote?
Fasthosts it seems is a slow learner. I have instructed it to mark any correspondence from unknown sources as spam, but I still have to go through them one by one, and I am losing the will to live on this one. One month ago I had six hundred emails in my inbox – today that figure is up to three thousand. I will have to look at most of them manually to make sure I don’t delete something important. Sound familiar?
Fed up with the constant sales pitches coming down the blower at me I decided enough was enough. I rang our service provider, good ol’ BT and spoke to someone who sounded like he was talking to me from the other side of the world. He spoke with an accent so strong that there was a lag in my brain between hearing and comprehension of at least five seconds every time he uttered a sentence. I was forced to ask him to repeat everything he said to me at least twice.
Ray, that was his name, or so it sounded, suggested that I consider going ex-directory (good move for a newish business) or, for the princely sum of £1.50 per month (plus VAT) they would agree not to let any more nasty companies out there have my number. So long as I keep paying.
Not bad eh? They get paid selling my contact details to everybody and his aunt, or they get paid by me not to sell them. It’s a win win situation!
Hang on, what about my Human Rights? surely one of these phone calls is from some crafty lawyer looking to exploit a gap in the market and get rich punishing evil and unscrupulous companies that give out our private info without our consent? Whatever happened to Data Protection? I think we need a new term here – Data Protectionism.
Ah, there it is. The small print on the contract. ‘you agree that we may share your details with a carefully chosen group of companies who provide services that we believe may be of interest to you.’ Gotcha! Don’t want to share? Try a couple of paper cups and a piece of string instead of your phone and see where it gets you.
So there we are, ‘like it or lump it and die with the swelling’, as my dear old Nan used to say. for the foreseeable future I am just going to have to put up with my stalkers. Wait! what’s that noise? Sorry, got to go, I think I hear the phone ringing…..