If your landline or mobile telephone is plagued by calls from companies trying to obtain your personal information, either in the form of an actual person or a robotic voice requesting that you call them back, do you despair or have you resigned yourself to nuisance calls now being a fact of life?
Whatever effect nuisance calls have on you, there is an answer for how to deal with them. In our guide, we go through the options you have available to you to fight back against nuisance callers and how you can even start to prevent them contacting you in the future.
Part 1: nuisance calls and how to stop them
What are classified as nuisance calls?
Nuisance calls are unsolicited ‘cold calls’ that can come from a variety of sources. Sometimes they originate from a company that has legitimately obtained your telephone number because at one point in time you gave it to them. However, more commonly, calls come from third parties who have obtained your telephone number from places where you have input it online, such as price comparison websites.
Types of nuisance calls
Known company or charity calls
Of course, if a company or charity that you have purchased from or donated to in the past call you, it is far less worrying than a company that has just bought your data. However, there is still the potential for relentless sales calls from them to become a nuisance.
The first step to try to stop these calls is to simply ask the caller to delete your number from their records and not contact you again.
If this doesn’t work, or you wish to block your number from multiple charities, then you can register with the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS). You will need to specify the name of each charity that you wish to block fundraising calls from, as you are able to block telephone communications from any charity. For more information, see the FPS website.
Unknown company cold calls
Some cold calls whilst annoying are also harmless. They will be from legitimate companies simply looking to sell to you. Whilst this is not necessarily something to worry about, it can cause problems particularly for vulnerable people who are easily sold to. It can also be extremely annoying.
The way to stop these calls is to request that your number be removed from their records. If this does not stop the calls, then take the caller’s telephone number and report them to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) who ‘uphold information rights in the public interest’ and have recently fined four nuisance call firms £600,000 collectively.
Finally, register with the TPS (Telephone Preference Service). You can do this both on your landline and your mobile phone now. More information about how to do this is provided towards the end of this document.
Unknown company cold calls from abroad
Unfortunately, the Telephone Preference Service only covers calls made from companies within the European Union. For companies calling from outside of this area, there are two things that you can do to try to prevent further nuisance calls.
Firstly, politely ask the caller to remove your details from their list and advise them that you will never need anything from them or buy anything as a result of someone calling you over the telephone.
Secondly, you may be able to set up call barring on your phone. Check with your telephone service provider to see whether they charge to block calls from international telephone numbers.
Worrying personal notification calls
If someone calls you and claims to be from your bank, insurer or even HM Revenue and Customs, it is always worth sourcing the number of the relevant organisation yourself and calling them back to ensure that they are who they say they are.
Even if the caller agrees that it’s wise for you to call them back and gives you a number to do this, don’t call it! The number they supply may be a premium rate number designed to scam you by charging a large amount of money to call it. Instead, contact the organisation they claim to be calling from using the contact details published on their website.
Another point here, is when you do call a company back, always call from a different telephone line when you can. Scammers are known to remain on a phone line, so that when you call back, whilst you may think you have dialled out to a new number, you could still be on the phone to the scammer who simply never hung up.
Most importantly, do not ever give out any personal information to someone who has simply called you. Even if they already know personal information such as your date of birth or address, do not trust them until you have confirmed that they are genuine by calling them back. The exception here is in the case that you have never heard of the company that is calling, do not call them back at all. Even a number found independently online can be a scam number.
Perhaps one of the most irritating types of nuisance calls (and certainly one of the most common), is the type that insists you have had an accident that you can claim for. These are particularly tiresome if you have not in fact had an accident.
Why do I receive claims calls when I’ve not had an accident?
In recent years, it’s been financially worthwhile for companies to make hundreds of thousands of these calls using automated systems, on the off chance that they will get in touch with someone who hasn’t been well serviced by their insurance company and are actually entitled to compensation.
If you have not had an accident, or taken out PPI, or if whatever the person/automated voice at the end of the phone is telling you has never occurred, then register with the TPS to prevent these calls in the future (see below for information on how to do this).
What if I have had an accident?
Cold claims callers will often call about car accidents, accidents abroad and even accidents at work. Even if you have not claimed on your insurance for these, just by informing your insurers of a crash or accident can make you the target of many third parties, who your insurers may share your information with.
In these cases, where you have had an accident but haven’t claimed for compensation – either because at the time you didn’t realise that you had an injury, or because you didn’t realise that you could claim – then you should take your own action for this. Contact a specialist solicitor who deals with accident claims and who has positive feedback. A simple Google search will show you some of your nearest solicitors and for many, you can then check to see what their clients are saying about them through testimonials, case studies or even interviews.
Part 2: nuisance calls and how to prevent them
How to opt out of receiving nuisance calls
Sometimes just asking to be removed from a list is not enough. To make sure once and for all that you will not be contacted again, it’s best to contact the TPS or put relevant number blocks in place. Here’s how to get started:
The Telephone Preference Service (TPS)
You can now register your mobile number as well as your landline number, with the TPS to prevent sales calls. The process takes around 6 weeks for the block to be put into place, but by registering, you will be making it illegal for unsolicited sales people to call you without your explicit consent.
TPS for landlines
To add your landline number to the TPS, call 0345 070 0707 (national rate) or visit the TPS website.
TPS for mobile phones
To register your mobile phone number with the TPS, text ‘TPS’ with your email address to 85095. The text is free to send and your email address is simply used to verify that you are who you say you are.
If you would prefer not to text, you can call 0345 070 0707 (national rate) or visit the TPS website.
What to do if callers ignore TPS
Report any TPS breaches to the TPS on 0345 070 0707, who will contact the offenders and also make the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) aware so that they can take further action.
The future of nuisance calls
In a recent article by The Guardian, an analysis of Ofcom data is reported to have found that UK consumers received over 2 billion calls and texts from claims firms in 2017. According to data from Aviva, this equates to 6 million calls and texts per day, which it says are mainly targeted at people aged 65 and above.
To prevent the misuse of consumer data for nuisance and spam calls, the Common’s Work and Pensions Select Committee have called for a ban to be imposed on unsolicited pensions sales calls.
The Financial Guidance and Claims Bill is also set to be debated for a second time by The Commons, which could look at the wider effects and repercussions of calls relating to claims and PPI calls as well as calls about pensions, where the caller does not have an existing relationship with a consumer.
Finally, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will officially be in place from 25th May 2018. The GDPR significantly enhances and increases the sanctions and penalties available to the ICO when taking enforcement action, where companies are contacting consumers without their explicit consent. This includes anything from pre-filling a tick box to opt customers in to receiving an email newsletter, to emailing offers to consumers who have not previously enquired or purchased from a company.
It is hoped that the GDPR will help to breed a culture where consumers are only contacted about products and services that they have indicated they are interested in and happy to hear about.
Hopefully, with these developments, sooner rather than later, nuisance calls will be far more heavily regulated, if not banned altogether.