Published: 01:01 GMT, 29 October 2014 | Updated: 09:11 GMT, 29 October 2014
Pestered: Rod Chaytor
The very first text pinged in at exactly 7.30 am. It read: ‘Hi Daniel. Following your £500 loan app, for loans kicking off from £1,500, no guarantor, go to XXX. Opt out txt END.’
It was followed, moments later, by a 2nd. ‘Hi Daniel. I’ve been passed your application for £1,000 and we’re glad to lend you up to £5,000. Just go to XXX to apply. To cancel text STOP.’
Seconds later, a third arrived: ‘Following your loan application for £500, the minimum we could suggest is £600. Is this OK? Accomplish at XXX. To opt out txt End.’ Then: ‘Daniel, if you need funds straight away, loans up2 £1,000 within 1hr. OptOutTxtXXX.’
There are two things that instantaneously rang alarm bells. The very first, and most evident, is that my name is not Daniel. The other is that I’ve never applied for one of these loans before, let along heard of these businesses. But within half an hour I’d received half-a-dozen messages.
In total, I received more than 30 that very first day, mostly from different mobile numbers, all suggesting loans with no strings linked — repeatedly reassuring: ‘Bad credit ok.’
Three weeks on, I’ve had more than 190 texts from 176 mobile numbers, each containing a tempting suggest targeting the poor, the vulnerable, the indebted-desperate and the needy.
I now have first-hand practice of what it is like to be the quarry of the ruthless and relentless loan industry.
It is precisely this type of activity on which the Government wants to crack down.
Last week, the Mail exposed how Culture Secretary Sajid Javid was planning to bring in fresh rules to end the scandal of nuisance calls and text messages plaguing millions of people every day.
My onslaught was unstoppable. Soon there weren’t just texts flooding in, but cold calls as well. At very first, I thought it was a come-on — random computer-generated messages sent out at the same time to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of mobiles just attempting their luck.
What they were looking for was for someone to text back telling: ‘Hi. My name is not Daniel, but I might be interested.’
But then, as the messages poured in, Daniel acquired a surname. It became more likely that one individual was being remorselessly hunted by a entire shiver of loan sharks. The mystery was solved by someone called John, who cold-called from somewhere in Bury, Lancashire.
He told me he represented a debt-management company which would be glad — for an undisclosed fee — to advise me on how to take out a IVA, a formal agreement to repay any debts I had.
He said they would negotiate affordable monthly repayments with the utility companies to make sure I wasn’t cut off.
‘We’re the good guys,’ he said pridefully, presumably reading from an on-screen script.
He seemed more than glad to tell me how the bad guys operated (disregarding the fact his company had been among the many bombarding me with texts).
Helpfully, however, he packed me in on the reason I was being sent all these calls and texts. There was, in fact, a real Daniel who had very likely contacted a lender.
He had then accidentally or deliberately given them an incorrect mobile phone number, which happened to be mine.
He was most likely turned down. And the stiff, having no further use for his contact details, then sold them to another company.
There are hundreds of these businesses in the UK, selling bundles of individual details of people wanting loans to other companies and brokers. They then launched their simultaneous brunt on the phone number, falling over themselves to be the one to get Daniel within their grab.
The messages will be automated — a hugely cheap, but also invasive, way of sending out hundreds of messages at once. And to the same phone over and over again.
Had I replied ‘stop’, as suggested in most of the texts, I might have been charged £3.50. That’s a remarkably plain way of making a fortune. And the lenders would have very likely disregarded it.
Eventually, John collective with me a few horror stories of women phoning in tears, angry masculine voices in the background, some having given their bank details to brokers who instantly abstracted ‘fees’ — and still no loan to feed their children or cover debts.
He would hear it three or four times during his six-hour shift.
Loans I was suggested had APRs ranging from 49.9 per cent to 527 per cent — many with the added message of ‘multiple loans OK’. I could have got a total of £98,800 and had someone bike the cash round to my house the same afternoon.
I was also suggested smartphone contracts, credit cards, ‘cheap’ EuroMillions tickets and online gaming.
For me, these offers are without interest and the texts a nuisance. Under the fresh Government rules, I should be able to report these firms and they’ll be fined up to £500,000.
Meantime, I can’t help thinking about Daniel. Presumably he’s still out there: in debt, vulnerable, and an effortless target for the pitiless payday loans industry.
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