Beware of Susan – she isn’t who she seems

PUBLISHED: 10:40 07 December 2018 | UPDATED: 10:40 07 December 2018

Beware of Susan - she may seem to care, but she doesn't, says Nick Conrad

Beware of Susan - she may seem to care, but she doesn't, says Nick Conrad


Nick Conrad isn’t a fan of automated women who ring him up and pretend to care about him

My telephone rings, I answer. The sweet young voice on the line belongs to Susan. She warmly greets me, stutters a little, and then enquires after my wellbeing. I answer curtly but, before I’d finished my sentence, Susan is asking me how I feel after my recent car crash?

Luckily, I’ve not had a car accident. Clearly Susan isn’t real. She’s a computer. ‘Susan’ is an automated system, which asks broad questions and listens for ‘key phrases’ in response before transferring you to a live (and very rude) operator. The computerised system dials thousands of numbers at any one time, and then transfers the calls only when an individual has answered the pre-recorded questions. These dodgy sales calls usually fish for PPI or whiplash claims. As this sales tactic has been outlawed in the UK, I wonder if these companies are actually ‘phishing’ with scammers behind the calls?

The automated message is sinister and deliberately misleading. It’s recorded in such a way as to fool the recipient into thinking they are dealing with a real person. These calls are often targeted towards the elderly, coaxing victims with a degree of trickery. Ofcom needs to do more to block these calls, the vast majority of which originate from overseas. Let’s go further, Ofcom should legislate against any company or organisation using automated conversations on outgoing lines. All pre-recorded communication should be prefaced with a message to the receiver, expressly making clear that this isn’t a real conversation.

All sorts of claims are made in Susan’s opening gambit. She knows a lot about my ‘accident.’ She’s going to get me a sizable pot of compensation. She’s concerned I’m still in pain. I show little concern when I tell her where to go! So, Susan is illegal, but shockingly the information gleaned in these calls can be passed onto legitimate UK companies, who provide the service outlined in the original sales pitch and then follow up the ‘lead.’ If your details are sold on expect an avalanche. Your phone will be red-hot for a fortnight with various companies calling you, hoping to take on your case.

The law clearly states that any company using an automated system must have your permission before it calls you. Anyone calling from overseas on behalf of a UK company must also comply with the law. Those without your permission to call should be reported, as quickly as possible, to the Information Commissioners Office. It’s tough for regulators so more must be done to tackle those who are using any illegally procured data. Guess what...If we cut these unethical companies’ incomes the practice will stop quicker than you could put the phone down.

I think it should be mandatory for any company who buys data to keep records to notify the Information Commissioners Office of where the data originated from and the consent from the individual names on the list. Penalties are already enforceable if a company is found to have illegally sourced data or has fallen foul of the regulations. In October alone the ICO raked in £310,000 in fines. The figure would be a lot higher if it included companies who have purchased illegally sourced third hand information from an overseas company. The very data our friend Susan was trying to extract from me.

By encouraging greater responsibility in how we use people’s private information then we in turn make the industry more trustworthy and transparent.

Be very careful what information you give out over the phone. Don’t be duped by the warm overtures and enticing sales pitch of the individual on the other end – automated or not. As for companies who rely on such data… businesses must be careful and ensure their marketing practices are on the right side of the law.

Banning the use of marketing lists is counterproductive and overzealous. We should be better supporting our law enforcement agencies to investigate and uphold the law. All of us, from the public to the private sector, must take steps to ensure a list is compiled fairly and accurately reflects peoples’ wishes.

And If Susan calls you… tell her where to go!

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