Helen Martin: Daytime telly is not as daft as you think

Programmes like Rip-Off Britain lay bare the gullibility of the scammers' victims. Picture: Contributed
Programmes like Rip-Off Britain lay bare the gullibility of the scammers' victims. Picture: Contributed
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WATCHING daytime television is one of those pastimes that carries a stigma. It conjures up an image of unemployed layabouts who equate celebrity with establishing their parentage on Jeremy Kyle, or those who claim to seek justice over an unpaid bill but equally want five minutes of fame by appearing before Judge Rinder.

But it’s not all rubbish. As well as learning about antiques and property investment, it more importantly tells us how to avoid being scammed and taken for a mug.

Programmes such as Fake Britain and Rip-Off Britain are genuinely fascinating, not just because they show how clever crooks and scammers are, but because they reveal the gullibility of victims.

Having occasional mornings in semi-retirement with nothing pressing to do allows me the luxury of studying these productions over a late and leisurely breakfast, parts of which often go down the wrong way following a sharp intake of breath at the stupidity of human beings.

Ninety per cent of fakes, scams and rip-offs featured are down to online activity, whether it’s identity theft or buying anything from a party frock to a holiday in Bali.

Hard-pressed mum wants to buy the latest, must-have brand of hair styler at £120 for her daughter. She finds a site selling that same brand for £50! Ecstatic mum pops it in her virtual trolley, clicks to the check-out, pays up, and five days later it comes in the post.

Delighted daughter plugs it in, whereupon it promptly blows up. Funnily enough, mum can’t get in touch with the seller to complain, she discovers the gadget’s a counterfeit and, direct to camera she says: “I can’t believe people can get away with selling dangerous fakes.” Well who did she think she was buying it from . . . Jenners?

A bloke reckons he’s super secure . . . changing his passwords, shredding his statements and taking all precautions; until he finds someone has amassed so much of his personal info from social networks that, with a clever piece of postal intervention, they have managed to open a bank account and run up debt in his name.

A woman buys a designer wedding dress for less than half price, relying on a website photo. When it arrives it’s like a kid’s, supermarket Hallowe’en outfit – the wrong colour, the wrong shape, made of cheap synthetic material, with gaping seams. What did she expect?

Online fraud of every kind is not rare – it’s soaring, estimated to be up by over 50 per cent on last year in the UK with millions of victims.

The authorities have not succeeded in tackling it. Every new security measure is almost instantly foiled by cyber fraudsters. It’s like walking along Princes Street with hundreds of pounds poking out of your back pocket, only worse.

The successful thief, whether they have stolen your cash or your identity, can’t be caught because he or she is invisible and probably on the other side of the world.

We can’t put the genie back. Maybe things will improve. Meantime we are more at risk from our own stupidity than we are from criminals and con merchants.

And that crucial wisdom, warning and advice is strongest, not from the government, the banks or the police, but from daytime TV.

Just focus on catching the bad guys

THERE is only one way to assess the success of a police force, and that’s how good it is at catching bad guys.

It may be that in order to do so, strong local community knowledge and information is necessary, along with the need to collaborate with other agencies, and of course, it has to be accountable to the public.

But it seems Police Scotland Chief Constable Phil Gormley has been reading his police manual upside down as he puts catching crooks below the priorities of “localism and inclusion”.

Despite shutting local cop shops, he and his rozzers can be as local and inclusive as they like, but if they don’t recognise their first duty is to catch criminals and keep the rest of us safe from crooks, he’s rather missed the point.

Hidden agenda behind job ads

A LONDON recruitment agency used by the rich and aristocratic has caused a row by seeking candidates who qualify on qualities such as attractiveness, bra size, hair colour, sex appeal and single status.

OK, it’s “wrong”. But millionaires and the famous employ who they want. I can guarantee plain Janes with chunky legs and facial hair don’t even bother applying for a stewardess job with Emirates airline and I doubt there’s even one ugly stylist in Edinburgh’s city centre hair salons.

Such specific requirements in an advert might fall foul of the Equalities Act but we all know it’s not the ad that matters, it’s who gets the job at the end of the day. And bosses can justify almost any selection.

In some cases, legislation is merely a cosmetic platitude.

Bobby’s nose best left alone

IF Greyfriars Bobby’s nose is being rubbed raw by tourists seeking good luck the obvious answer is to muzzle him.

No, I wouldn’t like that either. But for those anti-dog people out there who think every canine should be muzzled in a public place, if you recommend that for a living, sentient family pet, how can you object to putting one on a lump of metal?