Gloria Hunniford says 'Cold calling - don't buy it'

Gloria Hunniford

Why is doorstep crime an issue close to Gloria Hunniford's heart? And what else is the much loved TV presenter up to these days? We chatted at the launch of National Consumer Week’s cold calling campaign to find out..

What’s so bad about cold calling?

Working on the programme 'Doorstep Crime 999' I’ve seen all sorts of incidents and heard about people losing all amounts of money by falling victim to scams.

It can happen to anyone. For instance, one 92 year old man I met recently really impressed me as an individual, he's a great, strong man, who's been through the wars and survived a concentration camp. But sadly he lost a large amount of money through a doorstep scam.

When I asked him why he gave his money away so readily, he said ‘well, I might not see anybody from one week to the next so I’m lonely and I’ve nobody to talk to, and this man at the door was very nice to me and I got sucked in’.

And I’ve heard hundreds of stories like that and it really disturbs me in many ways, that people can be so vulnerable.

What can we do about it?

Our campaign is called ‘Cold calling- don’t buy it’. It’s about raising awareness that we can say no to doorstep sellers. The more we can get this message through to society, the better because sadly, all of us need to be aware.

We’ve started to distribute signs that people can attach to their front doors. opens link in new window Get your 'no cold calling' sign here. The signs won’t stop all cold callers but at least it helps to give you some defense and our research shows that it does make people feel safer to have such a clear message on their door.

When someone comes to your door to sell something, you need to take time to think about it. Close the door, check the decision with your relatives or contact other companies first to get some quotes, just check it all out before you do anything.

Why are you backing this campaign?

It’s something that I’m passionate about. As I said I've heard lots of stories through my work and I've been very affected when speaking to these people indivually. So anything at all that warns these people and helps prevent us from being sucked in by thee very clever scammers gets my support.

Are older people are particularly vulnerable?

In some cases yes, but actually we can all fall victim, young or old. One thing that really surprises me is how clever these callers can be.

Have you ever been a victim of doorstep crime?

Yes I had some work done outside my house. I was working at Radio Two at the time. So I went off to work and left behind our red painted tarmac drive, but later I came home to a yellow stone drive!

I was horrified so I rang the guy up and said 'If you don't correct all this then I'm going to call the police' and he said 'I wouldn't bother doing that if I were you, because we all know where you live'.

So I spoke to my husband and we decided to leave it, we'd lost £350 and we took it as a hard lesson learned. And that's an important point you see, sometimes it's just too late to get your money back.

Recently you took part in the BBC show ‘When I get older’, how did it affect you?

Well I'm a demon for research and I like to be very well prepared but in this instance all they told me was that I was going to live with an elderly person. They didn’t tell me where in the country even, only on the night before they said I was going north to stay with a woman called Ivy.

What shocked me was that, even though in my family when I grew up we didn’t really have very much money, I was still shocked when they took my purse away from me on this programme and gave me just over £3 a day to live on. That’s all the disposable income that this woman had to live on.

The reality is that you just can’t do it. My first thought was to make a good stew or something that would last us a few days. So I thought I was actually going to go and show Ivy something, but it wasn’t like that at all.

'It humbled me to realise that someone had to live like that. The woman was suicidal'.

I learned quickly that we couldn’t spend two or three day’s money cooking a basic meal, because by the time you buy the seasoning and the onion it all adds up. We ended up eating a lot of bread and sandwiches, so by the fourth day I was screaming for a bit of fruit.

It humbled me to realise that someone had to live like that. The woman was suicidal. She had no money to do anything and felt that she had nothing to live for.

But we did show Ivy that help is out there. We helped her move house to a place that is more within her budget and so she can save on rent and spend more on food. There is a park nearby and the place is better insulated so she spends less on heating now. She's a lot happier.

Will you stay in touch with Ivy?

Absolutely, she rang me up one day to say ‘Gloria, I’ve had meat and fresh fruit today’, which is great to hear. We talk every so often, especially after the programme because it was quite an emotional experience.

It was very enlightening. I never go shopping now without thinking of Ivy. Her words ring in my head, for instance, she once said ‘Why would you buy two-for-one when you know you’re not going to use the second one?’ And of course she’s right.

You’re here today at the launch looking very well and fighting for a good cause, do you see yourself as a role model for women?

No I don’t, it feels like I’ve been doing what I’m doing for 100 years now, but I’m in a privileged position. I’ve heard so many stories from people through programmes like Doorstep Crime 999 that it gives you an extra level of awareness. If I can do anything to help spread that message then I’m delighted to be in the midst of it. That’s why I really really want to back this campaign.

Aside from being busy with this campaign, what will you do next? Any Pantos this year?

Oh no, I’ve only ever done two pantos in my life and that was just to keep the tax man happy. I love live broadcasting but it does my head in to have to repeat panto shows, it’s the repetition of doing the same show over an over that gets me!

I’ll be carrying on with the Rip Off series, we have Rip Off Britain, and I’ve just been working on Rip Off Holidays. We’ve also got Rip Off Food. It’s a strong brand and again it’s about raising awareness. The public send us cases and we follow them up. It’s consumer lead, which is part of its strength.

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