It is usually around 8.30am that we receive our first hoax telephone call of the day at the Hextol Towers call centre.

It allegedly comes from Amazon Prime with dire news about the account we don’t have being renewed for some astronomic sum, a transaction which can only be halted if we press number one on the phone.

Even the perpetrators don’t seem to have their hearts in it, as the sting comes in a recorded message from a majestically bored American lady rather than a direct chat.

Amazon lady rings up most days as does a Bob Danvers-Walker soundalike from the technical department of BT informing us in a recorded message that both our telephone line and internet connection are to be severed with immediate effect.

I answered the phone the other day with a terse “what is it?” at which the caller lost his nerve, and burst into gales of laughter with colleagues at the con man call centre.

We have caller display on our telephones, and have stopped even answering it when the message “International” comes up.

If it is not a scam, it tends to be a gentlemen from the Sub Continent conducting a survey. If in a benign frame of mind, I agree to take part, always to the enormous delight of the interviewer, who practically weeps with gratitude having not had the phone put down on him for the 100th time that day.

I always make it clear that I am very hard of hearing, so he must speak slowly and clearly if I am going to be of any use in his quest for knowledge about my washing machine, life insurance and investment portfolio.

The chat sometimes lasts a whole minute before he starts rattling along like a runaway caboose on a steep incline, and despite several pleas to slow down, I am always obliged to hang up in sheer frustration rather than annoyance.

For some reason, we did accept an international call last week and found ourselves speaking to a very cultured Scotsman from Lloyds Bank fraud department, who had some bad news about my bank card, which had been used in transactions involving several thousand pounds at Argos, M&S and John Lewis in Liverpool.

Having established that we had made no such purchases, he also wanted to know whether I had recently been into the Ashington branch of the bank to make a sizeable cash withdrawal, gone back to my car to get further proof of identity, and never returned.

“We have the person on CCTV and in due course we may want you to see whether you recognise him” he said in Sean Connery tones.

He claimed he knew my pin number and passwords (presumably hoping I would repeat them) but he wanted to check a few more details of previous transactions. He had already arranged to send replacement cards to Mrs Hextol and myself, he claimed. I asked how we could be certain he was from Lloyds, as the call had come through as an international number, but without batting a Caledonian eyelid, he explained that as a multi-national company Lloyds used call centres all over the world.

He asked me to log on to my internet banking to check previous transactions, and when I said that was impossible while he was on the line, he said he would ring back in a few moments.

I took the opportunity to ring Lloyds HQ to check it was a genuine call, but its hotline was decidedly cold because of coronavirus issues, and it took a good half hour to get through.

When I inquired whether the call I had received was genuine, the young man on the phone initially indicated it was, but he would check with the fraud department.

Some 40 minutes later, he announced that there had been no attempts to use my card fraudulently in Liverpool or elsewhere, and nor had there been any bogus visits to the bank’s Ashington branch.

It had been a very slick and convincing con attempt, made all the more convincing by the fact we had a similar suspicious call some years ago which we initially dismissed as a hoax.

It turned out to be a genuine call, as the fraud team had spotted a card we had used just once in Barbados had been used to pay a mobile phone bill in the Caribbean, and an attempt had also been made to pay school fees in the USA!