A while ago I added a Crank Calls category to my Blog and at the time it was, (like so many other rants), just a means for me to vent frustration about companies trying to rip me off with stupid offers and debt repayment schemes. It therefore came as a surprise to me that I get more emails and comments relating to blogs in this category than any other. This morning during a quick work break, I thought I’d check out exactly what 0844 numbers are, seeing that they constitute the bulk of my crank calls.
Well for starters, 0844 numbers are non-geographic. This is to say, they give away nothing about the locale of the caller. It’s quite likely they aren’t even in the UK. They also have a flat call rate, meaning you will pay 5p per minute to call one regardless of what time of day it is. Interestingly, the owner of the 0844 number often gets a cut of the call charge so think twice before lining the pockets of your crank by returning their call.
In many ways, an 0844 number is like a writers pseudonym. The number doesn’t exist in the sense that nobody is given an 0844 number by BT, they are just aliases for other phone numbers. There isn’t even any guarantee that a specific 0844 number is aliased to a consistent real number. The providers of them advertise the ease with which they can be redirected to different numbers, even in different countries.
Now whilst I’m a big supporter of privacy and anonymity, there’s something else I’m concerned about, “Transparency”. In short, these numbers are a con. They are designed to obfuscate the real identity of the caller and to generate revenue from those who return calls to them. In my experience, they are used as circumvention tools, enabling foreign businesses to make cold calls to peddle services that wouldn’t meet regulations if they were based in the UK. There’s nothing I’m going to achieve by this Blog entry that will change that but at least I have the freedom to not answer them thanks to Caller ID. I can’t recall a single occasion when I’ve been glad I answered an 0844 call so I doubt I’m going to miss any good news.