Phone Spammers: Debt Solution Scammers

Whilst cold calling lead generators appear determined to hide their true identity, and in some cases intent, the following has been reported by many call recipients who have already completed a Nuisance and Unsolicited Calls form.

Company Names Claimed:
As well as 'Debt Advice Bureau', the names 'The Debt Managers', 'Money Manager', 'Debt Advisory Board', 'Debt Advisory Line', 'Debt Advisory Bureau', 'Debts Direct', 'Debt Advice Agency, 'Money Management', 'IVA', and 'Debt Management' have been reported by call recipients.

"We have been receiving calls to our telephone number from Debt Advice Bureau / Money Manager / Money Matters daily for the last 18 months".
"This started months ago - I have received no less than 50 calls from this company. They have called themselves Money Manager, Debt Advisory Bureau, Debt Advisory Line".
"The caller said they were calling from the Debt Advice Bureau and when I asked a 2nd time they said it was a company called Debt Managers".
"The company they claim to be is one of two, they are Debt Advice Bureau, or Money Managers ".

At the very least, the majority of names being told to call victims appear bogus. One thing is certain, DAB™ has made no calls. Of course, changing the name of the company you claim to represent part way through the call doesn't add to credibility.

Location of Callers:
The concensus seems to be an Indian or, at the very least, Asian call centre.

"Sounded like an Indian call centre".
"After pushing [the caller] said it was ... Indian call centre".
"Very indian sounding person obviously calling from overseas due to the time lag on the call".
"It is always an Indian call centre".
"He was of Indian origin, and admitted he was calling from South East Asia".

Location of Company:
When pushed, a number of call recipients have been told that the company for whom these phone spammers are acting is based in Leicester.

"I asked where they were based and they said Leicester".
"The caller claimed ... offices in Leicester and Ireland".
"The only information they gave me was that the company was based in Leicester".
"I tried unsuccessfully to get a number and address was told only Supervisor could give this and the company was based in Leicester".

UPDATE: It has been reported to us that Leicestershire Trading Standards are investigating a Leicester-based debt solutions company believed to be behind the phone calls.

UPDATE 14 July 2009: Since we first contacted the Telephone Preference Service, we have had an update. According to Andrew Cummings at the TPS, "[the TPS] has also received information relating to a company based in Leicester who are using a variety of names and telephone numbers when making unsolicited direct marketing calls and alleged to be responsible for high volumes of these unsolicited direct marketing calls relating to debt advice, consolidation etc".

Dated Database:
Where the phone spammers have obtained the names and numbers to call is unclear. There are likely to be multiple sources. Finance and comparison sites are one possible source. Since the start of the credit contraction many similar sites have had to find other ways to generate revenue, selling lead lists is one option. Though harvesting details from the intenet using a script is another one. And, of course, there is always the vast amount of personal information on the U.K. citizenry which has been 'misplaced' by various civil service incompetents.

"They claimed to get the number from the Commercial Available Database - UK Market".
"They admitted buying my number from some sort of commercial list and were asking for a person who does not exist (at my number)"
"He got my name from a consumer list".

Highlighting the potential age of some of the lists being used by the cold callers, a number of call recipients have received serial calls for past occupants:

"I have been receiving 2 to 3 calls of this nature every day since I moved in in 2007. I am on the TPS list but this hasn't stopped the calls.  Most of the time they are asking for the previous tenant of the house".
"Have regular calls asking for ****** who no longer lives at this address. Despite telling them this everyday that they call, we still recieve nuisance calls".

Other people are victims as a result of being given a re-issued phone number by their phone company, a number which just happens to be in the phone spammer's database.

"They are trying to contact a Mr. ******.  We have been receiving regular calls from this organisation since September 2006 when we took this BT number".
"I have recieved loads of calls ... looking for a Mr. ******. This person does not live here and the number is a new one".

Of course, the origins of the lists need have nothing to do with finance. As with cold callers selling dodgy sattelite TV insurances, they may simply be playing the odds. Most households have some form of debt. Make enough calls and some of them will have debt repayment problems. And some of those will succumb to the spiel ... eventually.

What is clear, since the lists are circulating outside the U.K., data protection and telephone preference rules appear impotent.

"I have contacted the Telephone Preference Service about the many silent and cold calls we were receiving, but they told me they could do nothing if the call was from abroad".

Which might be an additional reason for a UK peddler of debt solutions to use a non-UK lead generator, the ability to deny that they knew how the leads were being generated. Though FAQ 13 on the TPS website says:

Companies based abroad who call into the UK and who are making calls on behalf of a UK based company, must comply with UK regulations and screen their call lists against TPS before making an unsolicited sales and marketing call to a UK telephone number. We do make the file available to overseas based companies under licence for the purpose of suppression so they know whom not to telephone but many overseas companies who telephone the UK on their own account from overseas do so to avoid legal and self regulatory restrictions.

Unfortunately, all this also means that the lists are likely to be in multiple hands or, at the very least, being used to generate leads for a number of UK-based companies.

Silent Calls:
These are generated by 'automated diallers', most often used by call centres. If set-up incorrectly more numbers may be dialled than there are operators to take the calls. The result, silence when you pick up the phone. Whilst cold callers use this set up so do legitimate organisations, such as market researchers. You can register with the Silent CallGard Service to reduce, if not eliminate, such calls.

Inimitable Cold Caller Courtesy:
As is almost expected with cold calling operations, the need to remain polite is not seen as a high prioirty. Especially if the phone spammer's victims don't know who you are, where you are, the company you work for or the company for whom you're generating leads. And, no matter what you do or say, someone else is likely to get blamed.

Which explains call victims reporting the following:

"The supervisor was just rude and hung up".
"The person would not let me speak to a supervisor and was quite abusive"
"I asked them what company they were calling from, and they said fuck off and put the phone down".
"Some of the calls we have received have been rude".
"Called me a 'fucker' after I shouted at them to stop calling me".

Though asking for a supervisor, company address and similar details often seems to result in the callers hanging up.

Caller ID:
In the first half of July a number of call recipients reported the number 01163 680044. A Leicester number which appears to be linked to a VoIP service. At the time we added what we knew to the Who Calls Me website.

That number has since ceased being reported but, since the end fo July, we are now being informed of another new number, or should that be partial number. According to a number of call victims who were able to 1471, the number is 0301.

As with the previous Leicester number, we've added what we know to the Who Calls Me website. The site may also prove useful if you receive calls from phone spammers using different numbers.

Related Links:

Telephone Preference Service - http://www.tpsonline.org.uk/

Information Commissioners Office - http://www.ico.gov.uk

Financial Ombudsman Service - http://www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/

Leicestershire Trading Standards - http://www.leics.gov.uk/index/business/tradingstandards.htm

Ofcom - http://www.ofcom.org.uk/

TrueCall - http://www.truecall.co.uk/

Silent CallGard Service - http://www.silentguard.co.uk/



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