VICTORIA BISCHOFF: We need hot tips for cold callers 

Could it really be true that fraud cases are spiralling because we are too polite to hang up on cold callers?

Two major banks certainly think so, and they have each launched awareness campaigns in the same week.

Santander said its research showed one in five Britons believe it would be impolite to put the phone down, and has teamed up with the Chelsea Pensioners to encourage would-be victims to tell scammers to ‘push off, politely’.

Scam threat: Top tips to deal with cold callers include resisting being ensnared in small talk and flipping the conversation so you are the one asking the questions

Meanwhile, Marcus by Goldman Sachs found one in four UK adults said their polite nature makes them more susceptible to fraud, and has published The Good Manners Guide To Outsmarting Scammers, in partnership with ‘etiquette experts’ Debrett’s.

Top tips include resisting being ensnared in small talk and flipping the conversation so you are the one asking the questions.

‘If the scammer asks ”How are you?”, it’s fine to respond ”I’m very well, thank you”. But you should avoid the kneejerk polite response of ”And how are you?”. Instead, block the exchange by saying, ”Who am I talking to?” the guide advises.

‘Ask the caller how they got your number. If this feels too bold, you could say something like, ”I’m interested to know how you got my number, as I don’t generally make it available,” it goes on.

With fraud losses totalling £2.3 billion in the year to April, I’m reluctant to criticise any attempts to raise awareness of scams.

But fraudsters today are expert manipulators, often posing as authoritative figures such as the police, the taxman, and even the victim’s own bank. 

They are adept at exploiting our fears and know so much about their target their tall tales are utterly convincing.

So, this rather patronising advice strikes me as woefully inadequate — and a poor use of funds when many victims are routinely left out of pocket.

But I’d be fascinated to hear your thoughts on the theory. Would you be reluctant to hang up on a cold caller for the sake of good manners? Judging by your previous emails on the topic, I suspect you have some slightly more imaginative retorts up your sleeves.

Consumer hero

Throughout the pandemic, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has proven itself a force to be reckoned with.

The watchdog was quick off the mark with a new Covid-19 Taskforce, and published extensive guidance to help consumers understand their rights. 

When it became clear some holiday firms were treating customers unfairly, its investigations secured more than £200 million in refunds.

In fact, the CMA estimates that, altogether, its work last year saved consumers at least £2 billion.

So it’s welcome news that the Government is planning to give it more power to protect customers from being exploited online.

Ministers have finally recognised that consumer law must be made fit for the modern age. Subscription traps will be first in the firing line, with firms forced to make it clear what customers are signing up for and let them cancel easily.

Bogus online reviews will also be targeted, with ‘consumer catfishes’ banned from paying someone to write fake testimonials.

And there will be a clampdown on ‘other dodgy tactics used to dupe online shoppers’, such as hitting customers with extra costs that are not clearly advertised before they reach the checkout.

There is no doubt that staff at CMA Towers have their work cut out for them — but they are the best people for the job.

Apple approved

I usually ignore notifications that pop up on my smartphone. They’re almost always the irksome Calm app, which I downloaded when feeling a little stressed one day, reminding me to breathe.

But, last week, my phone finally had something useful to say. Loyal readers may remember me grumbling last year about how my new phone had facial recognition rather than fingerprint technology. It has proven most irritating in Covid times, as it doesn’t work while you are wearing a mask.

Well, the Apple tech gods have heard my cries and created a solution — for those with a smart watch, at least.

‘Use your Apple Watch to unlock iPhone when Face ID detects a face with a mask,’ the notification read. Hallelujah! Another reason not to ditch the mask just yet.