Cold-call victim gets his own back
Leeds man sets up personal 0871 telephone number and makes 10p a minute from businesses and cold callers
The Guardian, Thursday 29 August 2013
Cold-call victim Lee Beaumont has taken revenge on his telephone tormentors by turning his home number into an 0871 premium rate line – and has so far made more than £300 from the calls he has received.
Beaumont, 25, was getting fed up about the number of nuisance calls he was receiving, particularly those offering to help him claim for mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI), so he started looking at ways to stem the tide. Then he realised there was money to be made.
In November 2011 the self-employed designer paid £10 plus VAT to set up his personal 0871 number, which sits on top of the normal Leeds 0113 number used by his friends and family.
He bought an 0844 and an 0871 number but said he used the latter “because it’s more revenue for me”.
Calls cost 10p a minute from landlines, from which he receives 7p.
“I was getting peed off with getting PPI calls when I was trying to watch Coronation Street and Heartbeat,” Beaumont told the Guardian. “Originally I got the 08 number to get them to stop. But when I started making money I thought ‘this is better’.”
He acknowledged it was satisfying to have turned the tables on the cold callers, and indicated the move had succeeded in cutting the nuisance calls he received. At the beginning he was making around £7 a month, so the number paid for itself in less than two months.
However, as news of his unusual venture has spread, and with media outlets keen to speak to him, his phone has been ringing non-stop – sending more money his way. “Over the last three days I’ve had literally hundreds [of calls].” Beaumont said it was very easy to set up the premium rate number: he found a company online – which he said he had been advised not to name – and paid a one-off £10 plus VAT, with no other fees or charges.
On a Which? online forum, Beaumont – who has a website that carries the 0871 number – said: “I look for ways to get companies to call me.” When he opens a new bank account, switches energy supplier and so on, and the company asks for his home number, he gives them the 0871 number.
“Sometimes they ask why. I am honest and say it’s so I make 10p per minute when companies call me … Three days ago I had a problem with my Ocado shop. I tweeted them and they asked me to call an 0845 number. I refused and asked them to call my 0871 number. I posted this in a open tweet so if cold callers pick up on that number, it will help me make a few more quid if they phone me.” Ocado did phone him on the number and sorted out the problem, he added.
Beaumont is not alone in taking action against cold calls – in October 2012 Richard Herman told how he had won cash from a claims management company to compensate him for wasting his time with calls.
The premium rate service regulator, PhonepayPlus, has issued a warning to others thinking about copying Beaumont, saying that people could land themselves in trouble.
“Premium rate numbers are not designed to be used in this way and we would strongly discourage any readers from adopting this idea, as they will be liable under our code for any breaches and subsequent fines that result,” a spokesman said.
Plenty of companies offer premium rate numbers for sale – but whether you should set one up on your home phone line is a different matter. The website of 4tel Communications offers 0871 numbers for £9.95 plus VAT, and says it can get you set up in less than half an hour. But a 4tel spokesman said people plagued by cold callers would be better off registering with the Telephone Preference Service. He said 0871 numbers were only suitable for businesses providing support or technical advice lines. They are monitored by the premium rate watchdog, PhonepayPlus, and must meet the consumer protection rules set out in its code.