Friday, 25 April 2014

Too good to be true

About a year ago, I was involved in an accident on the main road leading from the Dartford Bridge. A simple enough incident. A foreign driver in a left hand drive car overtook me on the inside of a roundabout and carried on round without noticing I was in the outside lane. 

It was a minor collision and after spending about fifteen minutes exchanging details, we both went on our way. My damaged car was taken from home to a repair workshop arranged by the insurance company and I was given a replacement car for the two weeks or so that the repairs to my car were being done. No-one was injured and there was little inconvenience to anyone. 

Fast forward a year and a phone call arrives from a fellow calling himself Stephen Myers and claiming to be from a company called Direct Legal Assist, which is a firm of ambulance chasers. He starts enthusiastically telling me an outrageous story about how insurance companies set aside £1,600 to pay for 'minor discomfort and inconvenience claims'. 

Absurd nonsense of course; this is not how the legal system works, but not wanting to discourage him, I let him 'do his spiel'. 

Part of his story was that my name was now in the system and I would be receiving lots of calls from other companies unless he gave me a 'password' that would prevent others from calling. He also wanted me to sign a contract that would enable him to pursue the other driver's insurance company for this money that was just waiting to be claimed. 

Now I retired a few years ago and keen to find new and novel things to fill my day, I let him rattle on for a bit then said I would have to think about it and call him back. I had no intention of doing any such thing and of course I didn't need to, thinking he had hooked me, he called me a few days later to remind me of the £1,600 and there was only a limited time to claim. 

The way this scam works is this: firstly, some rogue individual in part of the system, it could be either insurance company, the vehicle breakdown recovery business or the repair workshop sells my details to personal injury claims legal firms who then try to get me to sign up to 'no win-no fee' agreements. When there is no possible hope of making a claim for personal injury because there wasn't any, they then invent a story about how another claim can be made for ' minor discomfort' and quote some silly figure. They assume that the victim knows nothing about how the legal system works and that a claim for an amount is not necessarily what the court will award. 

After conning you into signing an agreement with them to act for you, you will eventually realise that you are on a hiding to nothing and that the only thing you can do is invent damages which never occurred or, more likely, abandon the claim. It is at that point that they show you the tiny clause in the contract you signed which says that if you do abandon your claim, then you will be responsible for their legal costs; this can run into thousands of pounds. 

Eventually, I got fed up with him and told him how I was keeping the details of all the companies that were cold-calling me (there was only one) to report to Ofcom, we are registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), and would also probably complain to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and the Law Society. While he was thinking about that, I also asked him if the contract he was going to try and get me to sign had the nasty clause about me being responsible for their costs if I abandoned the claim. He wouldn't answer that but he did helpfully suggest that he took my phone number of their database to I would get no more calls from his company. I agreed that would be a good idea. 

It's a nasty scam and something really ought to be done about it; in the mean time, I have done my bit by giving this scoundrel the runaround. If it sounds too good to be true - it is.

Chocks Away

There is a story about a Russian reconnaissance aircraft being intercepted by a couple of our shiny new Typhoon fighters over the North Sea. You can read more about it here. 

There is nothing new about this, it's been going on for years. Back in the 1960's when I was defending Western Civilization from the Red Menace, the RAF fighter aircraft of first choice was the English Electric Mark F6 Lightning
A younger Thamesmead Grump 'somewhere' in 
West Germany, preparing to take on the 
Warsaw Pact. c. 1970

This aircraft had a truly terrifying rate of climb that cannot be matched by even the latest generation of planes. They were regularly scrambled to intercept Russian aircraft that strayed too close to our shores and provided a welcome relief for our pilots who would otherwise just be sitting in the the QRA hanger waiting for World War 3 to start. 

I remember on one occasion that, just for a laugh, we scrambled three whole squadrons to intercept one poor Russian crew who must have wondered what on Earth was going on when they suddenly found themselves surrounded by about thirty RAF fighters. 

It's a relatively harmless exercise and helps with crew training for both sides. I suppose the main reason the Russians do it is to get a good look at our latest kit.

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