Have you ever been called by someone purporting to be from your bank? Probably, the answer is yes.
I once had an ongoing row with my bank as I refused to believe that calls were genuine and hung up each time, or ignored the calls once I recognised the number.
But they kept coming. It turned into a battle of wits. I eventually picked up, only to request they do not call again. The woman on the other end became quite irate ending the conversation with, “well, we will keep calling you because we need to talk to you!” Which was hardly polite, in fact it was quite threatening—putting doubt in my mind about the state of my finances. So, nil points and more training for that lady I thought.
In fact, most of these calls are genuinely from banks’ marketing departments looking to sell loans and all those extra services that banks provide these days, like breakdown cover or phone insurance.
But, what’s tricky, and generates genuine concern among bank customers, is that not only do the calls come out of the blue—and from 0800 and 0845 numbers—they also ask you for authentication, to ensure “they are talking to the right person”. Which, of course, is you.
Alarm bells start to ring. Hang on, some stranger is calling me saying they are from my bank and now they want to know personal details to authenticate the call, what’s going on? We weren’t supposed to give out such information…are we?
How do you know the call is actually your bank? The simple answer is, you don’t. As my own example showed, the whole process can lead to bad feeling, bad tempers and, in the end, lost business for the bank—hardly what the calls are intended to do.
The problem has been made worse by the recent growth of so-called 'spoofing' as highlighted by the Daily Mail. Fraudsters are using technology that mimics the genuine numbers that banks use and tricks customers into revealing PIN numbers and other confidential details.
This will make it even more difficult for banks to use genuine calls to get through to their customers. The Daily Mail also reported that almost half of over-50s receive a suspicious or fraudulent cold-call every month, while four in ten people find it challenging to tell the difference between a real and a fraudulent call. Not good.
Against this background, it’s perhaps time the financial services industry rethought how they contact customers for marketing purposes. It could perhaps make its numbers clear on banking websites so customers know it is them—but then that doesn’t rule out the spoofers. It can certainly re-iterate that no genuine call would ever ask for passwords or log in details.
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