Inmates at two Staffordshire jails are being paid £20 a week to ring people for insurance information, it was revealed today.
Special call centres have been set up at Drake Hall women’s prison near Eccleshall and HMP Oakwood at Featherstone in a pilot scheme which critics claims is putting people at risk.
Homeowners are not warned who is on the other end when they receive a cold call from prisoners.
Inmates are told to follow a pre-prepared script and ask for details about valuables being insured. They also check the name of the person they are speaking to and the postcode of the address in question.
It has been claimed that targeted individuals are lured into talking about their insurance cover with the opening line of: ‘Would you like to save some money?’ They are told the person making the call is working on behalf of a ‘market research’ contractor.
Prison officials today insisted no inmate had access to the full address of anybody they spoke to.
But Councillor Bob cope, who represents Featherstone on South Staffordshire District Council, said: “It is naive to think that prisoners are not capable of putting information acquired in this way to illegal use, especially since there are apparently also plans to free some on day release.”
MP Keith Vaz vowed to raise the issue with government ministers.