Gran climbed Everest, but then battled a mountain of cold calls

Gran climbed Everest, but then battled a mountain of cold calls

When Charlie Shakeshaft, 26, visited his grandmother for Sunday lunch, he was shocked to find her riled. 

The 82-year-old was using language her grandson never dreamt she would utter, as she furiously berated someone on the phone. 

Patsy explained that she was being bombarded by nuisance callers, receiving up to 30 scam calls a day from people encouraging her to invest money in bogus schemes. 

Frustrated: Patsy was being bombarded by nuisance callers, receiving up to 30 scam calls a day

Having climbed to the Everest base camp four times — the first when she was 69 and the last when she was 80 — Patsy is made of tough stuff and no easy target. 

But even she felt vulnerable and shaken by the calls. 

‘I just hated the feeling I had when the phone rang,’ says Patsy, who travelled all over the world in her career as an in-flight nurse. 

‘I knew I had to answer in case it was friends or family who needed me. But I didn’t have the experience to deal with the scammers.’ 

Upset by her troubles, Charlie, who ran his own digital marketing business, decided to take action. 

He installed a free BT landline call-blocker and signed Patsy up to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), which adds users to a ‘Do Not Call’ register, making it illegal for them to receive unsolicited sales and marketing calls. Within weeks, all the calls stopped. 

Charlie, from Clapham, South London, then went a step further and launched his own company, Individual Protection Solutions (IPS). It offers a free basic plan which adds users to the no-junk-mail register with the Mail Preference Service, to stop unwanted post. Members also receive informative newsletters and videos about basic fraud protection. 

On the IPS website, users can even enter their details to find out if they have ever been leaked by a company and shared on the dark web — a haven for scammers. 

Charlie once entered Boris Johnson’s publicly available details into the data-breach checker as a test and found they had reportedly been leaked to several sources. He says: ‘If we can’t protect the Prime Minister’s details from the dark web, how can my grandmother protect hers? 

‘What I found was that there was lots of information out there about cyber-security but so much of it was inaccessible. 

‘My Gran had no idea how to stop the callers. The information wasn’t easily available to her. ‘Now, at work, we always ask ‘can Charlie’s gran understand this?’ 

There has been a 189 per cent increase in scam calls during the pandemic, according to research by the banking giant Santander. On average, people in Britain have received more than 180 suspicious calls since March last year. What’s more, Santander found that 47 per cent of us are failing to hang up straight away, with one person in five saying it would be impolite. 

Patsy says: ‘A few callers were polite to start with and talked knowledgeably. I felt under pressure to make a decision quickly.’

The IPS community now has more than 100,000 members. Charlie says: ‘At first there were a lot of older members but we’re seeing a shift. Younger people put their personal information on the internet a lot more, so they are typically more vulnerable.’ 

Members can now sign up for a £4.49 premium service that includes password management, antivirus software and a virtual private network (VPN) for browsing the internet anonymously — this offers security against hackers who intercept sensitive information that users enter on websites, which they can use to impersonate you and access your bank accounts. It will also alert users if their details have been shared on the dark web.