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See also Identity theft and fraud
The vast majority of us own home and mobile telephones and most of us would have received what we would describe as 'nuisance' phone calls and messages. These types of calls and messages range from the plain but irritating sales call right through to the downright fraudulent call often made to someone vulnerable suggesting they’ve won a competition they haven’t entered. The latter has resulted in people losing their life savings, because they’ve been taken in by the fraudsters. (Visit the charity Think Jessica for further information about how bad these scams can be.)
Fortunately there are many free or virtually free steps you can take to reduce the problem and for those calls that continue to creep down your telephone line there are also very good value solutions to stop these as well.
Visit DIRECTORY for products and services relating to advice on this page
According to the latest Consumer Experience report produced by Ofcom, older landline consumers are the most likely group to encounter nuisance and ‘silent’ calls in the UK, with 55% of 47 to 65-year-olds, and 59% of those over 75 reporting having received such calls in the past.
The patented CPR Call Blocker is currently available in two models – the 106 and V201 Care – both of which come pre-programmed with 200 of the most prolific nuisance callers known to the Call Prevention Registry, the largest alternative to the Telephone Preference Service with over 650,000 registered users.
Both devices will then let users block the numbers of a further 1000 nuisance callers by pressing the device’s prominent ‘Block Now’ button. This ends the call instantly, with the added satisfaction that the caller concerned will never be able to call you again.
The two devices can be used with any type of landline handset, will not obstruct any ADSL-based broadband connections and don’t require an extra power source. If desired, they can be made to block specific area codes, groups of numbers, international and VOIP (voice over internet protocol) numbers, ‘number withheld’ calls and spoof (made up) numbers.
The CPR Call Blocker has been tested under the ACPO Secured by Design licence scheme, and is recommended by UK police forces.
As well as stopping unwanted sales calls, the CPR Call Blocker can also play a role in preventing malicious calls, for example in harassment and witness intimidation cases.
CPR Call Blocker is a supporter of this website
How to stop them
- Try to get into the habit of not putting your phone number onto forms of any type unless it is absolutely essential. For example, when buying an electrical product at a particular store (no longer with us) I was often asked for my telephone number during the sales transaction. I’m not suggesting for one moment that my information would have been given to a third party, but information does get stolen and misused and so at least my phone number wouldn’t have been amongst the data should that have happened. In fact, I give the minimum amount of personal data about myself and always have done. If you have to give your telephone number out insist that it is not used for marketing purposes or given to other companies.
- If you no longer wish to receive calls from a company with which you used to have a relationship it is best to write to them with an instruction not to call you, even though they should respect your verbal request. It took me three goes to stop calls from a wine merchant I used to use and each time it was a different sales person on the end of the phone that received a flea in the ear!
- You should also watch out for this when making purchases on-line and make sure you check or uncheck boxes that ask your preference for future marketing calls. You should also unsubscribe from marketing messages received on-line if you don’t want them by using the unsubscribe facility that all responsible companies will display on their marketing messages.
- Unless your telephone number absolutely has to be in the telephone book go Ex Directory. A few companies do still use paper directories to target particular roads and towns, so it’s another way to reduce the nuisance. If you’re a BT customer follow this link to The Phone Book to make the change. If you are not a BT customer call your phone company to get your number removed from public display. There will be some delay, because the paper directories are periodically produced. Check that you’ve been removed when you receive the new directory through the door. If you don’t want to be completely anonymous you can ask to go Directory Enquiries only, so that an operator can give your number out, even though it won’t be listed in the Phone Book.
- Register with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), which is FREE. The TPS is the official central opt out register on which you can record your preference not to receive unsolicited sales or marketing calls. It is a legal requirement that all organisations (including charities, voluntary organisations and political parties) do not make such calls to numbers registered on the TPS unless they have your consent to do so. These words are straight off the TPS’s Home Page and by registering with them you’ll be able to chop off a large chunk of those calls. You should notice a reduction in sales calls after about 28 days.
However, this action will not stop calls from:
- Businesses and charities who would have obtained your phone number and consent to use it for marketing purposes during the early stages of your relationship with them – hence my first bullet point.
- Organisations for the purpose of market research
- Foreign companies
- Legitimate organisations inadvertently breaking the law
The TPS can also register your mobile phone number to prevent marketing calls, but not text messages. If you want to prevent these you must contact the company concerned to opt-out.
- Monitoring and screening your telephone calls using your answer phone and caller display will help some people reduce nuisance calls still further and some phones allow you to programme a different ring tone so you can recognise calls from family and friends
- If you have no need to receive calls from abroad you could consider asking your phone operator to bar calls from international phone numbers. Likewise, you could also block calls from withheld numbers, although you may be blocking calls from friends and family calling you from work – a problem I would have as I often receive calls from former police colleagues ringing me from their police stations. Some handsets also allow you to block calls from specific numbers.
- Now that you’ve considered all the free or almost free stuff you can reduce nuisance calls still further by using a call blocking device. These inexpensive devices plug into your phone and allow you to screen the calls you receive. They are pre-programmed with nearly all of the rogue calling telephone numbers and provide the user with the ability to block a call at the touch of a button; an action that also adds the number to the unit’s memory of blocked numbers. Once the call has been terminated the number is permanently blocked and you won't hear from that number again!
If you would like to purchase a call blocker please click on the relevant banner displayed on this website to the right (press the refresh button a few times until it appears) or go to the Directory category ‘Telephone call blocking devices and services’
Making a complaint about...
If you suspect the call might be a scam or you wish to make a complaint, note the number shown on the handset’s caller display, if it has one, or dial 1471 and write it down. Even if the number is withheld make a note of the time you received the call as an operator might still be able to identify the number.
Telesales and offer of services
If you continue to receive sales calls 28 days after after registering your number with the Telephone Preference Service make a complaint to them at this link: https://complaints.tpsonline.org.uk/Consumer/ or call them on 0845 070 0707. They will inform the company who made the call and where appropriate report the matter (which might prove to be illegal) to the Information Commissioner’s Office for further investigation.
You can complain directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office at this link: http://ico.org.uk/complaints/marketing
Legislation: Government legislation was first introduced on 1st May 1999 and replaced in 2004 by the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2004 making it unlawful to make unsolicited telesales/marketing calls to individuals who have expressed their wish not to receive such calls.
PLEASE NOTE: If you buy something as a result of an unsolicited sales call you usually have 7 working days from the day after you receive the item to return it.
Citizens Advice article about research concerning unsolicited calls and messages in regard to claiming for miss-sold Payment Protection Insurance (PPI)
Scams and Frauds
If you suspect that the call is a scam or believe you may have been the subject of a fraud or an attempted fraud report the matter to Action Fraud or call them on 0300 123 2040
Silent and Abandoned calls
If you have received a silent or abandoned call report the matter to Ofcom at this link: https://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/tell-us/webflow/silent-calls/
Most abandoned and silent calls are as a result of call centres using automated calling (or dialling) systems (ACS), which generate more calls than their operatives can handle. The ACS user may disconnect the call to your number without playing an information message, which may be the result of either human or technical error. Some people have complained about receiving a whole series of silent calls, which is obviously extremely annoying.
Abusive, Malicious, Threatening, Harassing calls
If you have received an abusive, malicious or threatening call either from a person you know or from a stranger call your phone company and ask to speak to their 'nuisance' or 'malicious' calls team. If the caller makes a direct threat to you or a member of your family and you believe the threat to be real and immediate call 999. If you believe that the threat is not immediate call the local police station on 101 (0845 600 8000 in Northern Ireland)
Relevant UK Legislation used to prosecute
Section 127(1) Communications Act 2003 relates to messages etc that are grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character and is used to prosecute those making and sending indecent phone calls and emails.
Section 127(2) Communications Act 2003 relates to false messages and persistent misuse intended to cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety and is used to prosecute somebody who persistently makes silent phone calls.
Section 51 (2) Criminal Law Act 1977 is used to prosecute those making bomb hoax phone calls etc.
Section 1 Malicious Communications Act 1988 deals with sending articles which are indecent or grossly offensive, or which convey a threat, or which are false, provided there is intent to cause distress or anxiety to the recipient. The offence covers letters, writing of all descriptions, electronic communications, photographs and other images in a material form, tape recordings, films and video recordings. Poison-pen letters are usually dealt with using this legislation.
Section 16 Offences Against the person Act 1861 may also be used in the most serious cases of threats to kill.
Automated messages giving premium rate number to call
If you receive a call, which is an automated message suggesting that you’ve won a competition or lottery you’ve not entered or you’ve come into some money, and you’re invited to ring a premium rate number to claim your prize or to find out further information DO NOT call the number. Instead, report the matter to Phonepay Plus at this link http://www.phonepayplus.org.uk/For-the-Public.aspx
Phonepay Plus is a not-for-profit organisation that carries out the day-to-day regulation of premium rate (or phone-paid) services in the UK on behalf of Ofcom.
Lessening the effects of unsolicited calls
You can lessen the effects of unsolicited calls by the manner in which you deal with them. I know you have no desire to be rude to a caller who in most ‘legitimate’ cases is trying to earn a living, but it is very easy to simply tell the caller that you do not do any business over the telephone. You could keep a worded card next to the phone to help prompt you into saying something like: “Thank you for the call. Please note that I do not engage in conversations with strangers on the phone. Please do not call my number again and remove my details from your list” – then put the phone down
However you personally choose to deal with that unsolicited call never:
- Submit to intimidation from the caller
- Give the caller your name or address or date of birth
- Provide information about your bank or financial arrangements
- Ring another number they provide you, which could be a premium rate number
- Provide your PIN (Not even your bank or the police would ask for your PIN)
Don’t forget that you will have no idea who the caller is or whether they are who they say they are.