HELP IS AT HAND TO PREVENT COLD CALLERS TARGETTING THE VULNERABLE
The 65-year-old from Keighley, whose wife Wendy suffers with dementia, says: "You'd be in the middle of something, the telephone would ring and it would be either nothing, an engaged tone or somebody wanting to sell you kitchens, windows or investments," explains John.
The couple would receive up to 14 calls every day - the least they received was eight
"It always started about lunchtime, then it would tail off about 3pm and it would start again about 4pm. It went on and on.
"It is a dreadful thing. It is like they are invading your home," says John.
Adding: "It intrudes into your life."
John and Wendy aren't alone. Whether tempting us into sticking solar panels or our roofs or encouraging us to claim back PPI, cold calls are a nuisance and can impact on many people's lives.
The recent announcement that companies who cause distress through cold-calling and nuisance texts could be fined up to £500,000 should go some way to combating the problem in future but, in the meantime, a tool has been introduced to help victims such as John and Wendy, and the many more people whose lives, and potentially their health, is affected by this blight.
The Call Blocker is a nifty piece of equipment allowing customers to effectively 'zap' unwanted callers and prevent them from calling through again from the same number, or blanket block certain types of calls they do not wish to receive.
John and Wendy found out about the equipment after attending a SAFER workshop in Bradford in February.
Run by West Yorkshire Trading Standards, The Big Lottery funded SAFER project is a community protection and empowerment programme.
Launched in 2012, the SAFER project aims to educate older, vulnerable people through workshops and events focusing on issues such as scams, fraud and doorstep crime.
Called Don't Get Hung Up....Hang Up!', the scheme forms part of The SAFER project. Launched last year, the initiative was funded through The Safer Communities Fund from the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson.
The Safer Communities Fund was launched to help voluntary organisations, community groups, charities and partners make their communities safer, and is financed by the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) which uses cash recovered from criminals to give back to the communities who have suffered from crime.
Through the Don't Get Hung Up... Hang Up initiative, older and vulnerable people who have been experiencing high levels of nuisance calls can be referred for consideration for one of the telephone call blocking devices which are currently being deployed to those who have been assessed and are eligible for the equipment throughout Bradford and Leeds.
Since the equipment was installed in their home, John and Wendy say they have only received two calls which John has been able to block so they won't receive them again.
"I can't believe that with this call blocker we have got our lives back," says John. "If the phone rings now I can guarantee it is somebody wanting to speak to me."
But John and Wendy aren't alone. According to West Yorkshire Trading Standards some residents are receiving more than 15 nuisance calls per day which can impact on the health of older and vulnerable people.
Recent cases reported to West Yorkshire Trading Standards include one resident paying £89.99 to a cold caller claiming to be calling to 'fix' problems with their PC; another resident was persuaded to invest £6,000 in a diamond scheme that never existed and another victim was threatened with jail after being told to re-pay a loan they hadn't even taken out.
Councillor Bill Urry, of the West Yorkshire Trading Standards committee, says: "Scams are now considered 'The Crime of the 21st Century' and a large proportion of these are conducted via telephone calls.
"Through this campaign, we will be able to empower those who are being targeted to protect themselves and stay one step ahead of the scammers and fraudsters.
Coun Urry also warned residents to be aware that scammers are now contacting residents by telephone, offering to sell devices similar to 'call blocker' to help put a stop to nuisance calls, but they are not legitimate devices so he urged people not to respond to them or any unsolicited calls.
'Don't Get Hung Up... Hang Up' is run through a referral process and referrals are assessed on a round by round basis - the next is on April 6.
* For more information about the call blocking devices, or to find out more about the SAFER project, contact Carrie Wilson, Community Project Officer (SAFER project); email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (0113) 393 9809 or visit wyjs.org.uk
- matthew roblin