The head of the economic crime directorate at the City of London police has sparked a major row by claiming that all cold calls which offer investment opportunities are from fraudsters – and should be banned immediately.
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Times Money section, David Clark – a former chief superintendent – has called on the Government to expand its proposed ban on cold calls targeting pension savings to all investments.
He said: “The lives of thousands of people are irreparably damaged every year from this fraud and this would go some way to reducing it. It would send a very clear message to the public that any calls offering investment opportunities of any kind are from fraudsters.”
His comments follow the publication of the Government’s consultation document on outlawing cold calls for pensions.
It stated: “The proposed ban will send a clear message to consumers that that no legitimate firm will ever cold call them regarding their pension [and will encourage] consumers to put the phone down on cold callers immediately.”
The proposal follows a huge increase in fraud; the police recently disclosed that reported fraud has risen from £10m in the year before the pension freedoms were introduced, to £18m in the year after.
The ban will stretch to the cold calling of people who have inadvertently opted in to receiving third party communications. Violation of the ban could attract fines of up to £500,000.
However, many in the telemarketing industry are up in arms over Clark’s comments. One company boss who declined to be named said: “To claim that all cold calls about investments are fraudulent is nothing short of scandalous. Many trusted brands carry out cold calling and it is a major part of the industry. To tar everyone with the same brush is outrageous.
“The truth of the matter is that the police simply do not have the resources or – it seems – the skills to weed out the rogue businesses. The words ‘sledgehammer’ and ‘nut’ spring to mind.”
Another insider said: “While there clearly have been problems with the pension reforms, many of these calls are coming from overseas, and this will not tackle the issue and prevent those from getting through.”
Others believe Clark’s remarks are designed to force the Government’s hand and ban all cold calls.
Supporting Decision Marketing‘s campaign to reform the Telephone Preference Service, another source said: “This is exactly why we need a robust TPS which protects both consumers and businesses alike. At the moment, the only winners under the current system are the cowboys.”
Last week, Decision Marketing stepped up its “Call for Action on the TPS” campaign by launching an online community at https://cfaottps.cmnty.com/authorize, designed to enable interested parties to exchange views and ideas about how best to move forward.
It is still in its beta stage and over the coming days will feature additional content as well as an industry questionaire. Please visit the site for more details about how to register and become involved in the campaign.
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