Friday 22 June 2007

Unsolicited calls

Two unsolicited calls today on my home phone, which is registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). One caller identifies himself as working for 'various financial companies', the other for 'different financial companies'. They pronounce the 'various' and the 'different' very indistinctly to try and cover up the fact that they haven't introduced themselves properly. They want to make an offer regarding mortgage interest rates. Both are using a very low quality connection and refuse to state who they represent. They won't say who asked or told them to call me.

A UK regulated financial services company should not be making unsolicited outbound calls. It knows that this carries penalties, and increasingly will ask customers to sign up to receive a regular call from an adviser or an account manager. Product design may include a provision for calls from time to time. So a company may sometimes make a mistake, but it will try hard to avoid repeating it. If you don't want to be bothered, just tell them clearly that you don't want to hear from them again.

An unregulated company based abroad has few constraints apart from penalties that may arise if any misuse of the telephone system is proven. The best thing to do is to tell these people to get lost - and don't call again.

TPS advice is as follows

Companies based abroad who call into the UK and who are making calls on behalf of a UK based company, must comply with UK regulations and screen their call lists against TPS before making an unsolicited sales and marketing call to a UK telephone number. We do make the file available to overseas based companies under licence for the purpose of suppression so they know whom not to telephone but many overseas companies who telephone the UK on their own account from overseas do so to avoid legal and self regulatory restrictions. We would advise caution in responding to unsolicited sales and marketing telephone calls from overseas especially if they are asking you to send them money or using a premium rate phone line (numbers beginning with 09). If you are receiving unsolicited sales and marketing calls from overseas you should contact the overseas company who is making the call.

Just ask - which company's products are you selling? If there's no straight answer, it's either a scam or a very stupid sales approach. In either case, you really want nothing to do with them.

Tuesday 12 June 2007

Adobe Acrobat 8.0 survey

Another poor online survey - this one by Adobe, who would like to know whether my company might or might not upgrade to Adobe Acrobat 8.0 at some time in the next year.

Amongst the horrors

  • Server errors when I first tried to respond - this makes a great impression

  • No Back button on each page to allow mistakes to be fixed; after a few uses of the browser's Back button, it got its knickers completely in a twist

  • Radio buttons with the instruction "please click all the reasons why..." - of course a radio button only allows you to click one

  • Inadequate list of business activities; although the Industry List includes Management Consulting, there's no selection in Principal Activities for consulting or project management, which is what I actually do

  • It didn't bother to ask if I recommend software for customers and if so, what the scale of this might be

  • Asking for a phone number for follow-up questions (no format indicated) and then refusing to accept a number in UK format or in +44 format

  • The people that put this survey together probably cost Adobe lots of dollars (or euros). It lookes to me as though a few dollars more, spent on proper design, review and testing, could have have given their marketing people some much more valuable results.

    Tuesday 24 April 2007

    Dear Toshiba

    It's really annoying to be sent a customer satisfaction survey that doesn't work - it gives a server error when I press submit. Not very professional.

    And the incentive - to be entered in a draw for a 1GB flashdrive with the rule that entries must be received by 31 Jan 2007 - not very professional either. And it makes you look like cheapskates too. A 1GB drive must be worth about £4. I bet each completed response costs you 5 - 10 times that.

    The URL for the survey ( resolves to Communicator Corp. Is Communicator Corp responsible for your malformed website alert messages too? These come as a string of html but aren't interpreted properly (MIME type needed?). Not even the hyperlinks work - they have to be cut and pasted into a browser.

    The good news is that the equipment is much better than the marketing and customer satisfaction malarkey would suggest.

    Monday 2 April 2007

    Report phishing attempts

    Fed up with phishermen? If you're a customer of a UK bank, and assuming you spotted the bogus e-mail before you clicked a link and compromised your bank accounts, there's a way to fight back. Give the banks the information they need to close the scams down! Some banks use an umbrella method such as BSO, others have their own arrangements. In either case, the sooner they hear from the public, the sooner action can be taken. The list below shows reporting contacts for fraudulent e-mail attempts.
    BankSafe Online (operated by APACS*):
    Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG)
    Halifax Bank/ with the subject 'Report'
    HSBC:Gives links to APWG and BSO
    Nationwide Building
    Royal Bank of
    Abbey National:E-Banking helpdesk on 0845 600 4388, open 7am-11pm, seven days a week
    Clydesdale Bank:links to APWG
    Yorkshire Bank:links to APWG
    Northern Bank:links to APWG

    Forwarding your suspect email

    Select the suspect email (don't double click to open it), right click and select the Forward action, and send it to the appropriate email address

    Attaching the suspect email to a new email

    Create a new email in your PC or Mac based email software, and drag and drop the suspect email from your inbox into the body section of the new email. Please note that this method will not work for web based email services e.g. Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail etc.

    *APACS is the UK trade association for payments and for those institutions that deliver payment services to customers.