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The more you earn, the more likely you are to be taken for a ride

Wealthy people fall for financial scam

Please do not take offence. You may be a consummate professional at work, but you are likely to be a bumbling amateur at home. We train for work but we assume that what happens outside the office is simply a matter of doing what comes naturally.
In fact, the more successful and well-paid you are, the more likely you are to be a victim of inertia selling or dodgy introductory offers.

In fact, the more successful and well-paid you are, the more likely you are to be a victim of inertia selling or dodgy introductory offers.

How do I know? Since co-founding Money Fight Club, our organisation has run a series of ?financial wellbeing workshops? for major British companies, designed to help employees make their money go further.

Workshops start with an open forum. Everyone is usually on his or her best behaviour. They ask questions they think would be helpful to themselves and their colleagues. They show off their intelligence and knowledge. They share their top tips. But they rarely admit their own shortcomings.

In the one-to-one sessions that follow, we find out what is really worrying them. Why are they always overdrawn at the end of the month when they are the best-paid person in their department? How are they paying so much for their satellite TV contract when they thought they were getting a bargain? Why can they never get their money back when they have a legitimate complaint?

Such problems appear to have little to do with confidence or intelligence. The finance director of one company, who came along to ?make sure his company was getting good value?, quietly told us that he had tried twice and failed to reduce the cost of his Sky TV subscription. He was paying almost £2,000 a year for satellite television that he never got a chance to see. He had a reputation at work for keeping everyone on budget, but found it much harder to get a grip on his personal finances.

The truth was that he had come up against someone who had trained far longer to sell than he had trained to buy. He was a civilian fighting a soldier in the customer retention army. Leaving or downsizing Sky was like trying to exit the Hotel California in The Eagles? 1977 hit song: ?You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.?

Customer retention departments know that those with money can afford to make costly mistakes, so the incentive is to make it as time-intensive as possible for them to cancel or curtail their contracts.

Ofcom is now investigating whether Sky is bamboozling customers to stay. They are using mystery shoppers and also want to hear from subscribers given the runaround.

At Money Fight Club we train people to handle calls to service providers. An extraordinary number of financial battles are won or lost on the telephone.

The first rule is to professionalise the negotiation. Behave as you would at work. You should have the contract in front of you, a checklist of what you want to achieve and a pen and paper so that you can write down who you are talking to and the points that you make.

Some customers have complained that they have been kept on the phone for up to two hours. This is not typical. But you must set aside at least half an hour to make your call or you put yourself in a position of weakness. The finance director we met had allowed only 20 minutes.

Be prepared to ask for a supervisor if you feel you are being strung along or ask for an email address or physical address where you can set out the terms you require.

The Sky website is still difficult for subscribers to negotiate if they want to cancel. Should the regulator find that there are serious breaches of the regulations, it has the power to fine Sky up to 10 per cent of its annual turnover. But do not hold your breath: this power has never been used and is unlikely to be.

I confess I was once a subscriber who fell foul of cancellation rules. I failed to read the small print that did not allow me to cancel for a further year once the contract had been renewed. And when I finally did manage to cancel, I had to suffer weeks of calls by professionally friendly people trying to get me to ?come back? at bargain rates.

The more you earn, the more people will try to take off you. The only way to end this bad practice is to act. We should not be coerced by our banks or service providers. We should take control of personal finances one bill at a time.

So why do so many of us get poor deals in our private lives? We appear to switch off our financial immune systems when we leave work. We do not allow enough time to check the options, read the small print or compare the full price with the sum of the instalments. We allow ourselves to be sold to instead of actively researching, choosing and buying. We fall for mailings in the post, online marketing, a phone call or even someone on the doorstep offering ?bargain? energy-saving deals.

Trading standards departments reckon there are some 200,000 people in the UK on so-called ?sucker? lists, who are contacted with investment opportunities out of the blue. The average age is 74, the time of life when people have money to invest and few opportunities to earn good rates of interest.

As a financial journalist, it can be disheartening to warn high-achieving readers of scams only for them to fall for them anyway. One investment company promised a ludicrously high rate of return while claiming to be completely safe. Yet it had several of the top academics from a prestigious university among its investors.

It?s not paranoia to think that they?re really after you. They are.


Lindsay Cook is co-founder of which offers online resources to consumers. She is also co-author of ?Money Fight Club: Saving Money One Punch At A Time?, published by Harriman House.

Money Fight Club was founded by Lindsay Cook and Anne Caborn in 2012 and is designed to change the way people engage with their finances, alter attitudes, and to make everyone?s default approach to personal budgeting one of informed defence

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