Are cold callers and spam texters making your life a misery? 8 billion spam phone calls are made in the UK each year, and nuisance calls and texts about PPI remain one of the nation's biggest gripes. Can you do anything about them, though, or is it a case of putting up and shutting up? We take you through the legal ins and outs of various kinds of nuisance calls, and the measures you can take to stop them... Go ex-directory
Some companies who make cold calls source numbers from the telephone directory. Contact your service provider to ask to be removed. Register with the TPS
Register your landline and/or mobile phone numbers with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) for free. It's illegal for companies (including charities, voluntary organisations, political parties and overseas firms acting on behalf of UK companies) to call numbers registered with the TPS, unless you have given consent.
You can register online, by calling 0345 070 0707 or by posting your details to Telephone Preference Service (TPS), DMA House, 70 Margaret Street, London W1W 8SS. You can also register your mobile number by texting 'TPS' and your email address to 85095 - however, this won't prevent spam texts.
Firms will still be allowed to call you for genuine market research purposes, provided they do not include any marketing within the call, or collect data for use in future marketing calls.
If you are still receiving nuisance calls 28 days after registering with the TPS, you can register a complaint with the TPS online or by calling 0345 070 0707. The TPS will contact the caller and send the details of your complaint on to the ICO (Information Comissioner's Office). You can also complain directly to the ICO, online, or by calling 0303 123 1113. Try to include as much detail about the unwanted calls as possible, including the name and number of the organisation and the dates, times, nature and content of the calls.
You should remain alert to potential scam callers - for example, some fraudsters ask for payment, claiming to be calling on behalf of the TPS. The TPS is a free service, so you should avoid giving out any personal information if you receive such a call.
Avoid giving consent
Even if you are registered with the TPS, companies to whom you have previously given consent are still allowed to call you. It is easy to accidentally consent to be contacted when giving out forms - you may be asked to tick a box to give or withdraw consent to be contacted by a certain company or third party companies to whom your details may be sold.
However, you can withdraw consent by asking the company in question to stop contacting you. You can contact them by phone, email or post, but insiders advise doing it in writing, and keeping copies of any correspondence. Legally, a cold caller must give you their company name and, if you ask for it, an address or free phone number.
If you don't wish to give a company your real phone number when filling in a form online, enter the number 0333 8888 8888 or 0333 888 8888 instead, to use trueCall38's free service. If anybody calls this number, they will hear the following recorded message, "trueCall38 is handling my calls. I prefer not to be contacted by phone, so please contact me via my email address. Goodbye!"
Screen your calls
The simplest way to screen calls is to use your phone provider's caller display service - assuming your phone is compatible, the caller's number will be displayed on your screen when the phone rings, so that you can choose whether or not to answer the call. Some service providers charge a small monthly fee for this service, whilst others don't. Some also offer options to reject all anonymous calls, or to block certain numbers.
trueCall offers a range of call-blocking devices found to block 98% of unwanted phone calls in a trial conducted by Trading Standards.
The trueCall box is plugged in between your phone (which must have caller ID/caller display enabled) and wall socket. You can add up to 1,000 numbers to a 'block' list, and the numbers of trusted friends and family to a 'white' list. White-listed callers will be put straight through. Black-listed callers will be played a custom message of your choice (trueCall will intercept the call before your phone has a chance to ring). All other callers will be asked to state their name before being connected - trueCall will play you the name before you decide whether to accept the call. According to trueCall, the vast majority of nuisance callers will give up when asked to state who is calling, whilst automated calls won't be able to answer.
You can also choose to block all withheld, unknown or international numbers, and give family and friends a 2 digit code which they can use to bypass the controls if they call from another number.
Alternatively, the BT8500 Enhanced Call Blocker Cordless Home Phone boasts in-built trueCall technology
Protect your mobile
Ensure you register your mobile phone number with the TPS, as well as your landline.
If you have an iPhone, you can block nuisance callers by tapping the phone symbol on your home screen, tapping 'Recents' and locating the number you wish to block. Tap the 'i' symbol next to the number, then scroll down and tap 'Block Caller', then 'Block Contact'.
If you have an Android phone, navigate to Settings > Call > Call Rejection and set up an 'Auto-Reject' list.
You can also download call-blocking apps such as Truecaller.
Stop spam texts
Although registering your number with the TPS won't prevent you from receiving spam texts, it is against the law for a company to send you spam texts unless you have an existing customer relationship or have given prior consent.
If the texts are from a sender that you are familiar with, or a short code number (5-8 digits long), reply 'STOP' - you should not be charged for this service.
If you continue to receive spam texts, or the messages are from an unknown sender or unfamiliar organisation, forward them to 7726 ('SPAM' on your keyboard). This is a free service which will send an alert to your service provider.
If you continue to receive spam texts, you can complain to the ICO - call 0303 123 113 or register a complaint online.
Report any calls which you believe to be from fraudsters to Actionfraud.
Abusive, threatening or obscene calls
If you receive an abusive, threatening or obscene call, stay calm and avoid engaging in conversation or giving away any personal information. The police recommend that you avoid answering calls with your name or phone number, and keep your answering machine message short and to the point. Make a note of the date, time and number and report calls of this type to the police.
Automated, silent and abandoned calls
A company must have your permission before making an automated marketing call (i.e. a call in which a recorded message is played when you answer). If you have not given permission, contact the ICO on 0303 123 113 or report it online. Try to provide as much information as possible, including the name and number of the company, dates and times of the calls and their nature and content.
Abandoned and silent calls are often caused by automated calling systems, and occur when too few call centre workers are available, or the system mistakes you for an answering machine. If you receive an abandoned call, it will be terminated when you pick up the receiver, and you will be played a short information message. You can report silent and abandoned calls to Ofcom online, or by calling 0300 123 3333. Try to give them as much information as possible, including the name and number of the caller, how many times you have been called by the same number, and how long you have been receiving the calls. If you don't have caller display, dial 1471 to obtain the caller's number. If the number has been withheld, contact your phone company.
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