Australian Accident Helpline has called on Australia to follow the lead of the United Kingdom by getting tough on cold-calling firms and directors of companies who prey on the most vulnerable in society with fake “nuisance calls” falsely claiming to offer financial reward.
Tough new penalties have been enacted in Britain whereby company bosses of cold-calling firms could face fines of up to $1,85million and will find it difficult to avoid penalties by declaring bankruptcy and then reopening their business under a new name.
The Daily Mail in the United Kingdom has campaigned for the cold calling clampdown and reported that 3.9 million calls and texts were made last year, representing about 7,420 calls a minute according to Ofcom, the UK communications regulator. Most of these were connected to fake personal injury and insurance claims or promises of pensions and payment protection insurance and targeted the elderly and most vulnerable people in society.
We are officially calling on the Australian Federal Parliament to take its cue from legislators in Britain by taking the gloves off to combat the cold calling scourge in Australia.
We can only applaud the UK regulator for taking the fight to these unscrupulous businesses, operating under the guise of legitimate companies with the sole intention of defrauding the most vulnerable in society. We call on Australia to follow Britain’s example with an uncompromising stance aimed at stamping out unsolicited cold calls made for nefarious purposes.
We have on numerous occasions, had to defend our reputation following reports of fake callers fraudulently claiming to represent our company and offering bogus compensation rewards to people in pursuit of private, personal information.
In the latest reported incident, the ABC recorded a conversation in which a fake caller claimed to represent Australian Accident Helpline and told a journalist at the broadcaster that the company wanted to send a cheque to the home of a person who had sustained an injury in a car accident.
We have received calls from concerned members of the public who have been contacted by scammers claiming to be us. The fact of the matter is that our company has never made a cold call and never will, as we do not operate a call centre. There had been instances in which unsuspecting victims had given out account email and passwords to fake cold callers. We subsequently advised these people to cancel all accounts linked to the email.
Fortunately, these occurrences are relatively rare. However, often the media has reported bogus calls made by callers claiming to represent our company, without affording us the courtesy of a fair follow up story stating that these calls were fake and that our company had nothing to do with them.
In many instances the fake caller was prepared, on request, to provide a contact number and company address, which inevitably turned out to be false. By contrast, Australian Accident Helpline invited claimants to call the company on its national hotline, before evaluating their credentials and then referring the injured party to a reputable law firm.
We are not alone as a company, or organisation, that has been affected by these criminal activities. The reality is that we would never ask for bank, pin, or password details from any prospective clients.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which safeguards the public’s information rights and data privacy in the United Kingdom, reported that it only recovered 54 per cent of fines slapped on cold calling companies, who had subsequently declared bankruptcy to avoid paying big penalties.
Many of these businesses then emerged as a new cold-calling company operating under a different name.
However, under the new laws coming into effect with the amendment of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations Act, the ICO will have the power to make cold calling company directors personally responsible and liable for fines of up to $1.85 million in extreme cases.
The ICO has reported that it receives about 7,500 complaints about nuisance calls and texts every month. Most involve fake firms claiming to offer personal accident claims, but charities have also been fingered for using cold call firms to lobby for donations.
Under Australia’s Corporations Act, a person must not try to sell financial products via an unsolicited telephone call or meeting. However, the so-called ‘hawking prohibition’ does not apply to emails, letters, facsimiles brochures or media advertisements.