The phone rang early on this morning and I did not recognise the number on caller display so I answered it without knowing who was on the other end. It was an Indian-sounding lady who claimed to be called Angela, and it was obviously from a busy call centre. She informed me that my computer was “badly infected.” Regular readers will know that I don’t do mornings very well at all. However, having had a relative who worked in Direct Sales for a while, I did my best to be polite. I tried to get a word in edgeways, but had the distinct impression that “Angela” was working from a script and that nothing was going to get in the way of her working her way down the spiel she had in front of her.

First off I tried the, this-doesn’t-apply-to-me-as-I-am-a-Mac-user approach, but that simply meant her voice went up several decibels and she told me again that I was infected. I was going to tell her about my telephone preferential registration, but by then she was insisting I switch my computer on and she would tell me what site to go to. (All in a peremptory and aggressive style.)  I can only presume the next step would have been an instruction to type in passwords or other sensitive information, and as I was getting nowhere, I hung up.

My point is this. What if I had been someone who was not computer savvy? Someone who was only too ready to believe that somehow my computer was “infected” and ready to give away personal information? I have known cases where people have been taken in and ended up being taken for a ride.

By the way, if it had been “Lionel from Bolton” would it have been any less intrusive? No, not really, but it would not have been happening. As far as I can find out the Telephone Preferential Service registration only applies to this country, hence the reason for overseas sales centres taking on this type of work. Coupled with the daily onslaught of spurious and dastardly emails, it all goes to show that the online world needs a degree of scepticism just to survive.

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