Woman gets 4,500 missed calls after number is mistaken for a helpline in blunder


Helen McMahon, from Bangor, Northern Ireland, was said to have received the barrage of calls after an email was sent out reminding people to spend the rest of their prepaid cards

Helen McMahon
Helen McMahon received thousands of calls

A woman was bombarded with more than 4,500 phone calls after a blunder saw her phone number mistaken for a helpline.

Helen McMahon was said to have received the barrage of calls after an email was sent out reminding people to spend the rest of their prepaid cards before a deadline.

The Spend Local scheme accidentally handed out her business number after the number that was advertised was wrong by a single digit.

The calls instead went to the woman, who is from Bangor, Northern Ireland, and her first aid training firm.

She said she only realised what was going on after she rang one of the callers back who explained the mishap.

The Spend Local scheme accidentally gave out her business number

Speaking to BBC’s Good Morning Ulster she said: “At the start of the Spend Local scheme I was getting a lot of phone calls because there is one digit difference between my business landline number and theirs.

“Then that sort of died away and I was getting one or two calls a day and then from Thursday evening my phone went mad and all these voicemails were being left.

“I thought all these people were looking for first aid training coming up to Christmas.

“I was listening to them and one woman in particular sounded lovely and I rang her back and explained she had misdialled and she read out the email and forwarded it to me and I realised, oh my goodness and that was the start of it.”

She added that she listened to as many of the messages she could and even tried to call them back to let them know the number was wrong.

She said that some of the older people she dialled were ‘very distressed’ and so she ‘turned a negative into a positive’ by trying to help the callers.

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Most of the people who called, she said, wanted to check the balance of their cards and some were asking about cards being lost of declined.

The Irish News reports that the Department for the Economy has since apologised to the woman after the barrage of calls.

A spokeswoman for the Department for the Economy said officials will contact Ms McMahon directly.

“The Department would again like to apologise to Ms McMahon and officials will be in contact with her formally,” she said.

“Department officials had spoken to her on Friday and again today to apologise after her business telephone number was mistakenly used in correspondence about the Spend Local card.”

The Spend Local card scheme was designed by the NI Executive to try and stimulate economic recovery after Covid.

The scheme, delivered by the Department for the Economy, gives each eligible person a Spend Local £100 Prepaid Mastercard (Spend Local prepaid card) to spend in local businesses over a short period of time.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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