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Cold calls: how to stop unwanted phone calls

Laura Shannon
by Lovemoney Staff Laura Shannon on 03 July 2012  |  Comments 15 comments

Relentless sales calls on your home phone are irritating and for some people, a source of anxiety. Why are you getting unwanted calls and how can you put a stop to unwanted cold calls?

Cold calls: how to stop unwanted phone calls

Companies using phony, official sounding names are bombarding people with pushy sales calls – even when they have registered to block cold-calls.

Panorama investigated the murky practice and secretly filmed a company involved in accident compensation claims, where employees manning the phones claimed to be from fake organisations such as the ‘Industrial Hearing Clinic’.

The programme also reported that households who are signed up to the Telephone Preference Service were still being contacted by salespeople.

The TPS is a central register for companies using cold-call techniques to cross check numbers, so in theory no-one on the register should be contacted.

The law states that if you have told a company you don’t want to be contacted, or if you have registered with the TPS, no business can call you (including charities and voluntary organisations). This comes under Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

So why are you still receiving calls?

It may be that you have already agreed for some companies to contact you, for example if you ticked a box giving consent for a company to send you marketing material. If you’re unhappy about being contacted, ask to be removed from their calls list.

But some companies are simply flouting the rules and don’t bother paying for access to the TPS register.

Scammers, as you would expect, clearly don’t care about the law and are harder to trace and block. They will continuously change numbers or use an anonymous number to remain undetected.

Check out How your details end up in the hands of cold callers for more.

Are all nuisance calls a scam?

Not in all cases - nuisance calls might come from genuine companies. Big businesses have been investigated for making silent calls – where a bunch of numbers are dialled automatically but there aren’t enough operators to handle the calls, so there’s only silence when you answer the phone.

In April, HomeServe was fined £750,000 by Ofcom for silent and abandoned calls to potential customers. Four years ago Barclaycard was fined £50,000 - the previous maximum penalty - for similar reasons. In autumn 2010 the maximum fine for silent calls was increased to £2 million.

However, many calls are also fraudulent. One specific con involves a caller pretending to be from Microsoft who wants to help fix a problem on your computer. They don’t actually know what type of computer you have (and anyone who uses an Apple computer will already know such a call is dodgy).

After convincing you to download software, which gives the caller remote access to your computer, the caller “fixes” the fictional problems and charges a fee.

A victim of this scam who spoke out on Panorama was bullied into paying £120 and then had to pay a genuine company to make her computer secure again.

Companies who breach the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations can now be fined up to £500,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Companies pretending to be the TPS

The TPS has warned people to steer clear of dodgy callers claiming to be from its organisation, but who then try to charge you for registering. The TPS is a free service.

What can you do?

Once you have registered with the TPS (allow around 28 days for it to take effect), watch out for any small print or boxes to tick on documents that confirm you don’t want to be contacted further.

If the calls are still coming in and marketers ignore requests to be taken off their contacts list, note the date and time and ask for the name and number of the company. Report whatever information you have to the TPS or the ICO, which investigate complaints. Otherwise feel free to hang up the phone.

The ICO introduced an online form for people to report any concerns in March this year and is using it to help trace those companies breaking the law.

You can also contact your telephone company, which might offer an ‘anonymous call rejection’ service, blocking calls from withheld numbers. However, be aware that you could end up blocking calls from numbers you do want to hear from, including public services such as the police force, hospitals and fire brigades.

There may also be a monthly fee for using this service. However, it’s still worth contacting your phone provider, as they can offer advice and may be able to trace the number.

More useful details can be found on the Ofcom website, along with the following contact numbers for your telephone company:

Ofcom Advisory Team – 0300 123 3333

BT Nuisance Call Advice Line – 0800 661 441

Carphone Warehouse/Talk Talk – 0870 444 1820

Kingston Communications – 01482 602 555

Post Office – 0845 600 3210

Sky – 08442 414 141

Tiscali – 0871 222 3311

Tesco – 0845 300 7080

Virgin Media’s Sensitive Information Bureau – 0800 953 3333

Telephone Preference Service – 0845 0700707

More on landline phones:

How to call 0845 and 0870 numbers for free!

How to stop junk mail and unwanted telephone calls

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Comments (15)

  • Modreduk
    Love rating 9
    Modreduk said

    I have had some fun with these people, and I find taking the p*ss works well with most of them. I have almost worked out a script depending on the company calling which seems to work for each of them.

    For any company that calls from India where the person tells me their name is "Dave" or "Frank" or some other very English name I simply demand to know their real name as giving me a false name is an insult to me and also to themselves, no matter what they say I just keep on with the line and they soon hang up.

    Accident companies are nice and simple, I tell them that I have just had an accident. I thought I was going to f*rt but followed through and now I have sh*t myself. Gone with lightning speed.

    The most fun I have had was with a PPI company. The idiot on the end of the phone had already been told by my partner we were not interested and I had already sorted it all out but he still phoned back, and when I was in a funny mood as well. I kicked off the whole call by pointing out that I would sooner write a couple of letters myself and just pay for the stamps than hand over 30% of my refund to them. He then came back with "but the figure you get from the bank and the figure we get you might be quite different". That was when the real fun started, I pointed out that statement could be seen as in breach of ministry of justice guidelines as it implied he would get me more money than if I claimed myself and he got very defensive as he "read it perfectly". Needless to say, that company have never rang me again.

    If all else fails, and I don't have the patience, I just give the phone to the kids and tell them it's Santa.

    Report on 05 July 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • mickey73
    Love rating 0
    mickey73 said

    Just had a call trying to sell me carbon credits, got my details from a M& S shareholders list. Very persistent & long winded, eventually he gave up. so be careful.

    Report on 17 July 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves

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