Twenty-odd years ago, our village idiot, Eddie the Gluesniffer, stuck up the post office (no punintended) using a toy plastic Luger pistol.
It failed to impress the staff and customers just as the pair of his girlfriend’s knickers, worn over his face in place of the more typical stocking mask, failed to conceal his identity.
The sub-postmistress duly told him to go away in jerky movements and he wisely left empty-handed. The local pubs rang with laughter as the story got around.
Sadly for Eddie, however, the law had a sense of humour failure.
Eddie was removed from circulation for a while and Evo Stik sales declined dramatically.
Demanding money with menaces is not generally accepted as a legitimate way to earn a living. It’s reassuring then for those of us who are law-abiding citizens, to know that we can rely on the authorities to take a dim view and respond robustly to the likes of Eddie.
Or can we? My experience of how the Ministry of Justice deals with claim fabrication – sorry, claim management – companies suggests otherwise.
Like most people I have had the unsolicited texts and calls telling me I have thousands of pounds due in PPI compensation.
Whereas I normally ignore them, recently I decided to play one along.
Taking a call from ‘Jack’ at an Indian call centre I was told that I had taken out PPI – not asked if I had. Jack then coached me vigorously to say that my loan was for home improvements, that I had been told it was a compulsory part of the loan package, that I never used it, never complained and had never been in a debt management plan, had an IVA or been made bankrupt.
At the end of all this I was asked to confirm who I had had a loan with ‘just for data protection’. Up to this point, of course, they were winging it. I gave the name of a lender with whom I did take out a loan in 2005 – albeit without PPI.
‘Jack’ then patched me through to a claims management firm in the UK who took my details to send me a claims pack.
All of this was disturbing enough but what really bothered me was the response of the Ministry of Justice. Despite reporting the fine details of the conversation the MoJ believed I was merely the intended victim of an advance free fraud scam.
An exchange of letters ensued with the MoJ trying to convince me the claims firm’s name was being used by a scammer. Only when I sent them the claims pack did the penny start to drop.
Claims firms operate with the approval of the MoJ – as they are always quick to stress. To get a result, they invariably threaten the target with the FOS.
It may be a more sophisticated approach than Eddie’s plastic gun but where the ‘victim’ is coached to lie it is surely no less a crime.
This week I had another call on behalf of the same firm but with a second UK-based intermediary interposed. As this goes to press, I have a meeting organised with the MoJ. I will let you know how I get on.
Neil Liversidge is managing director at West Riding Personal Financial Solutions