How one man turns annoying cold calls into cash
A man targeted by marketing companies is making money from cold calls with his own higher-rate phone number.
In November 2011 Lee Beaumont paid £10 plus VAT to set up his personal 0871 line - so to call him now costs 10p, from which he receives 7p.
The Leeds businessman told BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme that the line had so far made £300.
Phone Pay Plus, which regulates premium numbers, said it strongly discouraged people from adopting the idea.
Mr Beaumont came up with the plan when he grew sick of calls offering to help him reclaim payment protection insurance (PPI), or install solar panels.
He said: "I don't use my normal Leeds number for anyone but my friends and family."
Once he had set up the 0871 line, every time a bank, gas or electricity supplier asked him for his details online, he submitted it as his contact number.
He added he was "very honest" and the companies did ask why he had a such a number.
He told the programme he replied: "Because I'm getting annoyed with PPI phone calls when I'm trying to watch Coronation Street so I'd rather make 10p a minute."
He said almost all of the companies he dealt with were happy to use it and if they refused he asked them to email.Warning
The number of calls received by Mr Beaumont has fallen from between 20 and 30 a month to just 13 last month.
Because he works from home, Mr Beaumont has been able to increase his revenue by keeping cold callers talking - asking for more details about their services.
Citizens Advice commissioned a survey about unwanted PPI calls.
One in four of those who had received unwanted calls said this had interrupted family meals.
Calls remain the most common form of contact about PPI claims, followed by automated landline messages and text messages to mobiles.
Anyone who believes that they have been mis-sold PPI can make a claim directly to their provider.
He admitted the scheme had changed his attitude, saying: "I want cold calls", and that he had moved on to encouraging companies to make contact.
After a recent problem with his online shopping, he declined to call an 0845 number but posted his number on Twitter in the knowledge that the number could be picked up by marketing companies.
But the premium number regulator Phone Pay Plus says the public should think twice before setting up their own lines.
They say phone line providers must meet consumer protection standards, which include transparency, fairness and complaint handling, which would mean clearly setting out the cost of each call to any organisation that rang.
They told You and Yours: "Premium rate numbers are not designed to be used in this way and we would strongly discourage any listeners from adopting this idea, as they will be liable under our code for any breaches and subsequent fines that result."
A survey for charity Citizens Advice found that two-thirds of those asked had received unwanted calls, texts, emails or letters about PPI mis-selling.
More than half said that they had been contacted more than 10 times in the past year.