When you come home to a message left on your answering machine by a computerised voice telling you that it’s Virginmedia and you should call back on a rather suspicious sounding number (0208 instead of the usual call centre number) what would you do? It might be that I’m particularly suspicious but given the telephone scam stories in the media in December 2014, it’s hardly surprising that I didn’t immediately dial the return number. After all, there’s an easy number on which to dial Virginmedia on their website, I could call that and they’ll be able to help.

So I phoned them and discussed the predicament, to which the answer was effectively that it could have been a sales call, but there’s nothing on their records to show I had been called.

Cue further suspicions.

So when the same call came in again the next day I called Virginmedia again. This time I refused to give any of my personal details, fearing my phone line had been compromised. This time they wouldn’t divulge any information to me because I wouldn’t do any security checks. Though I was told that none of their contact numbers began with 0208 except one channel provider who would not impersonate Virginmedia.

I phoned back again with the full message details having done an internet search of the number and found one reference to a debt collection agency ‘Credit Solutions’ (or perhaps CSL). This time I explained that I was giving Virginmedia one more opportunity to take my concern seriously before I pursued a more formal complaint as to why I was apparently being harassed by a debt collection agency for one of Virginmedia’s accounts no longer using my number, by someone claiming to be Virginmedia. I was told two things: (1) the person in the call centre could not tell whether someone had called me and anyway it wasn’t from one of their standard numbers; (2) it can take some time for records to be updated, the number may have been recycled from a previous account. I pushed a bit harder and said that I expected my concern to be taken more seriously given that it seemed to me I was either being harassed by Virginmedia or that someone was impersonating the company. If the former then it was simply not acceptable that my number was still listed on a debtors list and if the latter then why weren’t Virginmedia taking the issue more seriously.

I phoned the number left on the message myself and spoke with the still-not-telling-me-they-were-a debt collection agency. After about 15 minutes on hold, I was put through to someone who claimed to be Virginmedia (not on behalf of or as a service outsourced by Virginmedia – until I pushed them to explain to me the truth when the full story became evident). They promptly removed my number from the record (as I would expect). Virginmedia then phoned me back to tell me the same thing – but added that Credit Solutions would have continued to call until I phoned them to let them know the individual was no longer on my number. Though the Virginmedia staff member had to personally phone the number – it wasn’t something that could be conveniently checked on a database. I still have three major concerns:

1) How is it permissible that a company, not Virginmedia but ‘Credit Solutions’, can call itself Virginmedia – when it is an outsourced debt collector?

2) If a company represents itself as ‘Virginmedia’ then why doesn’t Virginmedia have a full and accurate record of the details of phone calls so that concerned customers can verify and act on issues when raised?

3) Why didn’t Virginmedia immediately update their records and records of all ‘outsourced’ service providers to ensure that these intimidating and worrying calls do not happen? A former customer’s records still being active on a new customer’s number.

In this day and age with computerised systems, high personal debts and increasingly clever methods of fraud, I’m really amazed by this situation. Thank goodness I’m not actually in debt to Virginmedia, would have been even more disorientating if I was. And to think Virginmedia have a convenient advice webpage for when debtors call – oh the irony. Frankly, I’m surprised OFCOM have not received complaints.

Here’s the call with the debtor’s name and reference number beeped out.