Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Scam calls and the "it's just a courtesy call" 'gambit' (aka 'lie')

I had another scam call today from someone who asked if I was "William Cameron" - I asked who was calling. The response was "It's just a courtesy call. I'm calling from the Highland Energy Forum ...".

The call today was from 0844 376 0095, and a quick internet search reveals that this is a known telemarketer scam outfit with many other people being pestered by these idiots. As for the notion that it is some great favour or "courtesy" that these people are doing me or other recipients, this is no more than a bare-faced lie - they are calling, uninvited (despite me being signed up to the TPS) to try and sell me something that I do not want to buy, or if I did I would initiate the transaction myself with a reputable firm, not by talking to some shady outfit that specialises in bothering people it has no right to be contacting.

Yet another number has now been added to my 'choose to refuse' list!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

A vignette from a supermarket visit and a slight feeling of guilt

I usually visit a supermarket 3 or 4 times a week, usually to do a couple of larger shops, the other two usually for smaller quantities, often of things I forgot to get before or for salads and things which I prefer to buy every day or so anyway. Earlier this week I was doing a larger shop in Inverness in the ubiquitous Tesco and was waiting in line at the check-out behind a man who had only a few items to pay for, so I assumed it would be a speedy transaction and he would soon be gone and my own purchases would be rung through the till.

However, that was not to be. Instead, his transaction seemed to be taking rather a long time; at first I wasn't paying attention, but the delay made me watch and listen in a little more closely, whilst trying not to pry. As I mentioned above, he had only a few items to pay for (I think a sandwich, a small soft drink and perhaps some crisps or a small confectionery bar) - as it was early afternoon I assumed it was his lunch on a break from his office or sales route. I think the total was less than £5-, perhaps even less than £4-, but he wanted to pay by card - he put it in the card-reader, but it was rejected. He tried it with the same card a couple more times, with the same result. Then he tried it with another card, but it was rejected too. He then started to look in his wallet/money-purse, presumably for a bank note or some coins, but it seems he did not have ANY cash at all, so could not pay and had to leave without the items he had tried to purchase.

Who knows what the story is behind this little incident - someone who has lost his job or whatever benefits he may have been receiving, or someone who has exceeded his account limits and the bank has stopped all his cards, perhaps someone who is undergoing a messy divorce and his partner/wife has cleared out his account, or perhaps even that someone has cloned his cards and cleaned out his accounts that way. Whatever, I don't think he could have been completely unaware of what might be likely to happen, because he did (on later reflection - and that's where the slight feeling of guilt comes in which I'll explain a little later) seem to have a slightly hang-dog demeanour. He was wearing a suit and tie, with a rain jacket on top and seemed perhaps to be in his thirties - I took him to be an office-worker or perhaps a travelling salesman doing his sales route around this part of the country. Whatever the case, it was obviously part of a bigger drama in this young-ish man's life.

It was only a little later, after he had left the supermarket, that I was jerked out of my abstraction whilst packing my own purchases into bags in my trolley and rebuked myself for not doing the charitable thing and offering him the money to pay for his lunch - a £5 or a £10 note from my wallet, or a few £1 coins from my purse, would have meant almost nothing to me. I hope that if I observe another similar incident in the future, I will be quicker to react and offer the paltry sum required as a gesture from one human being to another - that's where the slight feeling of guilt comes in, that I didn't react quickly enough to allow him to have his lunch-time snack and simply offer a small hand of friendship to someone going through some kind of personal tragedy.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

More scam calls - "Window Scrappage Scheme"

(Please see UPDATES at end)

I had a telephone call earlier today from what is almost certainly another of these scam outfits. The caller asked initially if he could speak to the "householder", I responded querying who was calling. The person (a Scottiah male voice, with a well-spoken Edinburgh-ish accent) said he was calling about the "Window Scrappage Scheme", which he said is currently available "in your area" - naturally he did not reveal which company or organisation he represented, a sure sign in my opinion that this is merely a commission agent touting for business either on behalf of the company he works for or for another company which had hired him to conduct cold-calling. On this occasion I asked him how he had obtained my telephone number, given that I have signed up to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) and he responded by blustering that it was an "official call". I then informed him that I had heard enough and was going to hang up, which I did. I then blocked future calls by adding the telephone number (see below) to my 'choose to refuse' list.

An internet search for the number (01968 458146) revealed it to be from the Penicuik area (this is just south of Edinburgh), and further research at one of the links provided by that search, http://www.411phonesearch.co.uk/01968458146-phone-number, revealed it is indeed a scam operation, with a number of very negative comments listed against it.

As I wrote in an earlier article last July, I think most sensible people can recognise this kind of call for what it is almost immediately, but some more gullible folks or perhaps some elderly folks with poor hearing might be fooled by these con-artists. So this is a further warning just to be careful and not to be drawn into a conversation with such people. I am never rude when I hang up, by the way, I always say something like "no thanks, goodbye" and hang up (although today I was perhaps slightly more abrupt, but certainly not rude), then block future calls if possible with my 'choose to refuse' access code. Job done!

PS/ Like many others, I subscribe to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) which theoretically should stop cold-calls, but as has been mentioned recently in the media the rules are being flouted by some less-reputable (and some otherwise seemingly pretty reputable) outfits; 'choose to refuse' is a second line of defence for me which I began to use over 10 years ago.

UPDATE (Wednesday 28NOV2012 14.19 GMT) I have published a comment - see below - which may perhaps be of interest to some readers, although to be quite frank I am not entirely certain that this comment is not itself in the nature of 'spam', specially as the person writing me addresses me as "Trefor" - I have absolutely no idea where that comes from. In any case, if you want to follow this 'marketing' contact do so at your own peril - I shall certainly not be doing so myself. Depending on any feedback I get I may choose to remove said comment at any time.

2nd UPDATE (Wednesday 28NOV2012 14.38 GMT) I have now removed the comment referred to immediately above as some internet searches lead me to be certain that this is itself a scam outfit, seemingly operating out of a semi- in a street of semi-detached houses in Bradford and for which I have found rather too many negative comments. It may be helpful if others interested in leaving comments here read the 'Terms of Use' for this blog - there is a link near the top of the right-hand column.

3rd UPDATE (Wednesday 31JUL2013 20.00 BST) A short time ago, someone called "Andrew McCann" tried to post a comment here which I have not published. In his comment Mr McCann categorised me as "Some snobby old guy looking down on cold callers" and adding "these people work long hours for awful pay" and "Try being a cold caller earning less than minimum wage...". Well, Mr McCann, it is not my problem that people are BREAKING THE LAW by knowingly cold-calling people who have signed up to the TPS (as I have). Nor is it my problem that people are low paid, much as I may have sympathy with them. Nor am I in any way responsible, nor do I condone it if it is true, that companies employing these people are paying them "less than minimum wage" in contravention of the law. Naturally, Mr McCann, I have kept a copy of the email confirmation, sent to me by the blogging host, of your comment, for future reference. In summary, this comment is a joke and I am treating it as such. PS/ A 'Google' search for "Andrew McCann" naturally reveals many people with this name, but one seems to be closely connected with the 'cold-calling' sector. Nuff sed! PPS/ The IP address of the computer used to leave the comment is 31.220.240.3 with the ISP shown as "Cablecom Networking Limited", apparently from the Dundee area.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Eurovision 1956-2012 Recapitulated

Just because - well it's interesting to see the changes over the years in the winning songs in the Eurovision Song Contest from its inception in 1956 to the latest competition earlier this year:

- and I hadn't recalled until now that in 1989 the winner was Yugoslavia, just before immense changes in Europe, a country that no longer exists - or rather, a country that now exists in multiple new forms. Banal the Eurovision Song Contest may be, but it certainly reflects in sometimes astonishing ways developments in our continent over most of my lifetime.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Spain's Constitutional Court again upholds gay marriage law

Spain's Constitutional Court has once more upheld the 2005 law granting same-sex couples the right to marry, with 8 voting for and 3 against with one judge abstaining.

This follows on from the similar vote earlier in the year, which I wrote about here.

As I wrote in that earlier article, doesn't Mariano Rajoy have more important things to worry about than attempting to reverse gay-marriage laws, for example getting the Spanish economy back into some semblance of order?

(NB/ This article is cross-posted from my Spanish blog casabill.blogspot.com)

Friday, 2 November 2012

Now if only the English and Scottish FAs followed suit ...


- a television advert by the Dutch FA lamenting the lack of 'out' gay footballers.

Bigot of the Year 2012 - Cardinal Keith O'Brien

Stonewall have named Roman Catholic Cardinal Keith O'Brien, head of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, as their 'Bigot of the Year' for 2012, in particular because of his visceral opposition to same-sex marriage.

The Catholic hierarchy have reacted with fury and have 'demanded' (just who do these people think they are to demand anything!)that the Scottish Government and two banks (Barclays and Coutts [part of the RBS group, incidentally]) withdraw their sponsorship. The two banks have already indicated to Stonewall, apparently, that they may indeed withdraw their sponsorship if this particular award is not dropped from next year's awards.

It is rich for the Roman Catholic Church to claim it is being intimidated and vilified by Stonewall when it is this 'sky-fairy cult' that has a long history of intimidating and vilifying anyone who disagrees with what it grandly calls its 'doctrine', not to mention covering up the abuse of children by its paid agents (aka 'priests') over many decades. Cardinal Keith O'Brien deserves his title of 'Bigot of the Year' awarded to him by Stonewall, for that is what he is - a bigot. He may not like being held up and named publicly, but his bigotry is a matter of simple objective observation. When he alters his odious viewpoint and issues a public recantation of his hateful language in respect of gay and lesbian people it will be time enough to consider relieving him of his deserved 'badge of shame'.

Incidentally, as a customer of RBS I shall be making my views known to it. I find it quite deplorable that it's subsidiary, Coutts, is even considering bowing to the pressure from the Roman Catholic Church; rather than withdrawing its support from Stonewall it should re-emphasise its support, even if its own financial situation makes it difficult for it to continue its charitable donations at earlier levels. This is not solely a matter of money, but about where Coutts stands on this moral issue.