Your view: all hung up on nuisance calls and texts

by , Conversation Editor Consumer Rights 22 March 2013
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This week we announced our new campaign calling time on nuisance calls and texts. The reception so far has been electric, so I thought we’d focus on your nuisance call comments in ‘Your view’ this week.

Hand holding up phone reciever

Richard Lloyd’s Conversation calling for an end to nuisance calls has clearly struck a cord.

It’s our most popular Conversation this month, with more than 400 comments made so far. There have also been over 7,000 votes, with an incredible 100% of you saying you’re fed up with nuisance calls and texts. Liz Skinner sums up the feeling on this debate:

‘I hardly ever answer my landline as a result of these awful intrusive calls. But when I do get caught, I say I am not interested and they badger and harass me and make me feel guilty. I hung up on one once and he rang me back and shouted at me! This is outrageous. Surely there must be a way to stop them.’

Louise feels the same way, telling us on Facebook:

‘Wish I didn’t have a landline because all the calls are nuisance calls now… insulation grants, research and PPI claims … even though I have tried to be polite and cancel these calls, they are rude and intimidating. I now hang up immediately and often just don’t answer at all. It’s an invasion of privacy rights and freedom of choice.’

And it’s not just landlines, as Tracy told us on Twitter:

Keep calm and hang up

Some of you are calm, have a little fun with them, and then hang up. The aptly-named ‘Hangup’ feigns interest:

‘The latest trend in our calls is they start by saying “I am not selling anything”, so I now say “oh what a shame, I’m desperate to buy, sorry” and hang up… childish but strangely satisfying.’

David has a number of tactics to ‘play’ with nuisance callers:

‘I am so fed up with unwanted calls that I answer by asking which department they would like to be put through to. Silence follows. Another ruse is to say I would like to talk to them about the bible which always causes the line to go dead. If it’s a recorded message I just leave the phone on until I hear the beeping noise so that it costs them as much as possible. If you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em!’

Commenter Ak goes a little further:

‘I just say “NO ENGLISH!” and start talking in Swahili. They soon put the phone down and hopefully remove my contact from their calling list.’

Garry tries playing them at their own game:

‘If I have time, I say hello and listen and ask them many questions until I get bored then I say “I hope I have wasted your time as much as you waste mine”. Not nice I know but then neither are the cold calls.’

Ian Hart bemoans the Telephone Preference Service, with a nice play on words:

‘The TPS really needs to get fitted with some real teeth, rather than the plastic ones which it seems to have, & which also seem to be a lot less effective than a beak-less budgie – the budgie at least, sucksseeds!’

The serious side of nuisance calls and texts

But there’s a serious side to all of this, which is best illustrated by some of the comments made, such as Caroline’s:

‘I have been off work for two weeks due to fact that my father died and my mother is seriously ill. Every day I receive cold calls regarding PPI despite being ex directory. This is very distressing. I dive to my phone every time it rings in case it is my mother needing help. I find it disgraceful that these people feel that they have the right to bombard me with calls everyday.’

Similarly ‘Dontstand4it’, who gets our Comment of the Week, has had an awful time due to nuisance callers:

‘Last February was a very distressing time as my mother in law who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease went missing from her home. I was back at work having helped search for nearly two weeks, not knowing what would be the outcome and awaiting the possibility of a phone call from the police that I was not looking forward to. On the afternoon of my return to work I received a phone call on my mobile from a woman who said ‘we have a very urgent message for you…’ Before I had the chance to realise it was yet another PPI sale, my mind went haywire and I felt physically sick.’

This is why we don’t want the regulators to delay. They need to set up a taskforce and take action before 12 weeks are up, otherwise we’ll ask the government to step in. So, make sure you don’t tone down your support – dial it up.

31 comments

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themefrom

I’ve been with Telephone Preference Service for years and I shudder to think how bad it would be without that.
BTW you do NOT have to renew it like some of the liars doing the cold calling will tell you.

Seems to me there are six different situations

1. a lot are from overseas now and they register on my phone as “International” so they don’t get answered at all.

2. “I’m not selling anything its a survey.” I hang up cos they started off with a lie

3. They are trying to sell something. I say Telephone Preference Service. They say “Oh sorry I’ll take you off the database” – LIAR

4. is the same as 3 but they hang up before I get the full phrase out.

5. Now they are calling my mobile!!!!

6. Now they are using recorded messages, mostly about PPI. They start off with “its about YOUR PPI” I don’t HAVE any PPI, I always opted out.

Oh and MOST of the calls are at tea time!!

Well done Which for getting on board this is a major major pain in the Tuchas wherever that is

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Shonafabshoes

These calls are an invasion of privacy, and I am bewildered that someone can call me up whenever they choose, knowing my name, address, phone number, and usually some other personal information. They can say whatever they like to me and yet I have no number, name or company info about them and no recourse when they are so rude, and at times obscene.

What further incenses me is when people say ‘they’re just doing their job’. That’s no excuse for it happening, nor for the rudeness and obscenities, and as we’re registered on TPS, part of the caller’s job is to check the register themselves and not to call any numbers on there.

I’ve tried various tactics, the latest one being just to claim they’ve got the wrong number.

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John

As with many others we receive at least one or two nuisance calls each day, around lunchtime,
if my ‘phone screen records “international” it is ignored; nevertheless someone has been disturbed. Lately the callers claim to be insulation or double glazing specialists and “I’m calling
re your recent accident.” The mention of TPS registered very occasionally raises an apology but
mostly seems to be of no concern whatsoever to the caller. I have also adopted some time
wasting schemes at the expense of the caller, such as please hold while I answer the door, or
even keep silent while he/she registers a lengthy description of what it is they are calling about;
and then ask if they can repeat their statement since my hearing aids don’t seem to be working
very well. I had thought I might buy one of those air horns to blow their eardrums down their throats, but have had second thoughts in case they claim damages under some premeditated injury clause.
clause!!

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j

I have calls at 2 and 6 am. A few rings, enough to wake me, then they stop. I check 1471, number withheld. So every night I have to unplug my phone. I have very sore hands and it an actual pain. My suggestion is that there is a method of registering numbers we want calls from. Unsolicited calls will be charged £10 to the caller. MAKE THEM PAY then it will at last stop.

Also make it illegal to provide services to people who withhold their number. If they act decently what have they to hide.

I will be contacting my mp this has to stop. As a citisen I would face jail time for this set up.

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Robintherich

Just like your other correspondents I receive on average 3 to 4 calls most days. I am registered with the TPS but it makes little difference as most of the calls are from overseas. Even those that are from the UK are not at all put off when I mention the TPS. One caller admitted that they ignore TPS rules and although they are told to apologise and offer to remove my number from their database they never do so.
I have tried all the responses described by others but now I just hang up.
The telephone companies could stop this practice immediately if they were so inclined but I guess its revenue for them and so they couldn’t care less about the problem.
I am very concerned that these callers know my name and address and wonder what else they know about me.
I really do wish that the regulators would get a grip and do the job they are paid to do. At present it seems to me that if they were disbanded we wouldn’t notice any difference.

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Sheila Baker

Like everyone else, I am fed up with nuisance calls. Recently one person stated that ‘according to our records you recently suffered an accident that was not your fault…… I have not suffered an accident so I put the phone down. I wish now that I had challenged this statement. But it requires a lot of patience to take them on. I also find they love to phone around mealtimes or late in the evening.
Good luck to Which for taking the callers on.

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tonyp

One problem with blocking unidentified calls, such as withheld and unavailable, is that some of them could be genuine and not spam. Many organisations have different lines for incoming and outgoing calls. The outgoing number is not available for incoming calls so is hidden to avoid people trying to call it. Calls identified as International do not usually fall into this category.

I use a combination of answer phone and caller display to deal with the problem. If I recognise a caller I answer, if not I let it go through to the answer phone, if the caller is genuine then a message will be left otherwise it can be ignored.

I have in the past suffered a range of spam text messages on my mobile. They started with the messages telling me that I should claim damages for my recent accident, when I hadn’t had one; they then changed to telling me that compensation for PPI was owed to me, when I have never paid PPI; when these stopped I started to get texts offering me loans. I forwarded all of them to 7726 which with my service provider, T-Mobile, is the number for notifying spam texts. This does seem to work because I have noted that the number of spam texts has decreased quite significantly and it is now rare to get one (I feel the need to touch wood after that last comment!).

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Paul Simmonds

Latest tactic, two similar calls in the last four days “answer this lifestyle survey and then we won’t continue to call you” (not word for word – but it was almost an implied threat).

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Paul Hepworth

There are too many agencies involved. TPS only deals with live unsolicited calls of a sales/marketing nature. It does not stop other call types such as recorded/automated messages, silent calls, market research, overseas companies, debt collection, scam calls, nuisance and abusive calls etc. deal with abandoned and silent calls. The Information Commissioner’s Office deal with recorded calls including overseas ones. Trading Standards manage scam calls.
All these agencies need to be brought under one roof to offer a “one stop shop” for consumers.

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richard

I now get ONE call or less every THREE MONTHS – It used to be 3 or 4 a day when I was with BT – now I’m with Virgin – But the biggest reduction occurred when I ‘programmed’ my answer phone to answer all phone calls a few years ago – Recently I decided to turn my Answer Phone OFF – haven’t had a single cold call in three months – So it worked. But I do not give my number to any Internet Company unless essential to avoid companies passing on my number to others.

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Ron Bates

I can bar upto 20 numbers on our phone, it is now full of UK numbers. Apart from the usual culprits ie PPI insuation Double glazing etc. I am getting calls from indtrial deafness claim lawyers, and accident claim lawyers. My normal response if my wife is out is to give them a blast from my Fire Service issue whistle. It might not stop them but the satisfaction makes up for it.
What I would like to know is who is giving them my number, my suspect for the deafness call is my former union from when I was at the steelworks.
Regarding texts on my mobile they have just about dried up. I have started using 7726 on Tmobile to bar the numbers this system seems to be working.I have recently been getting more cold calls on my mobile, Igive them the same treatment as landline cold calls

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Susan

I support this 100%. Most people are living under the pressure of demanding time filled schedules these days. It isn’t just the calls that rudely invade my private time at home that bother me, but the time it takes to delete the calls from my ansaphone messages and call lists nearly every day of my life! It sounds crazy to hear myself saying that, but it is a, which, at times, nearly drives you crazy.

I too have gone through some difficult times recently, and when I have felt down with real problems, the last thing you need is someone ringing with a ploy, pretending to care with sweet talk, when their objective is a purely selfish agenda.

Room 101 forever please Which. Many thanks.

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Dermot Paddon

All sounds very familiar. Though for us these days it is pretty all text messages (PPI & accidents) which get sent to the service provider, Used to get lots of calls but diminished slowly after registering with TPS. International were the biggest bugbear but perhaps due to a combination (depending on how I felt) of rudeness, putting the phone down but still connected and taking the mickey out of calls (pretend not to speak English and if you can speak a foreign language use it) they have ceased to be an issue.

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tonyp

Being ex-directory and minimising the number of people who are given your number is no defence these days. The spam callers take valid STD codes and use a computer to generate numbers which are then dialled. If it is not a valid number then the computer simply moves on to the next one.

Several people have asked why the spam callers persist when it is obvious that so many people are annoyed by the constant calls. It is simply a matter of numbers, call 1,000,000 numbers and if only 1% of those called respond positively then this means 10,000 successful calls. I guess this would be regarded as a sufficient success rate for the practice to be worthwhile.

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Bob

I have a gadget that can block or allow individual numbers or:
‘Withheld’
‘Unavailable’
‘International’

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par ailleurs

Interesting to see that this is still a problem after so many people and organisations making a fuss about it. TPS has a certain effect. I no longer get calls from double glazing and insulation firms. “If you could have double glazing fitted next week, tomorrow etc etc”. Also the 7726 service for spam texts does seem to be taken seriously by mobile providers. I get far fewer now.
One thing springs to mind though. How many of us either mistakenly or unthinkingly fill in those boxes when ordering via the internet. They’re still designed to catch you out as sometimes you have to tick the box NOT to be contacted by them and third parties and other times vice versa.
As for the live international calls, I use a variety of tactics like other people have mentioned to waste their time. I reserve my best for the Indian computer scam callers who purport to be calling from Microsoft. I always pretend to tap the buttons on my keyboard even if the PC is turned off. “Now what can you see sir?” ” I see a large image telling me to beware of crooks from India telling me that my computer is infected.” Works every time! Another fun one is to chat them up. Be very explicit as they are crooks and deserve no sympathy. Indian women get very embarrased poor souls and the men have a horror of being suspected of being gay. Cruel perhaps but never forget that in order to keep their “business” going they must get sufficient dupes, usually those who can ill afford it. These callers are not harmless chancers, they are criminals.

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lessismore

The calls saying that someone from this address has had an accident are unsettling and upsetting. I also get a recorded message telling me that I haven’t claimed my refund – press a number to hear more. I don’t. My number is registered with TPS.

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Garth Till

I wish I’d been able to read “Par Ailleurs” comment two years ago. Then I might not have been taken in by just such an Indian “Windows technician” It cost me £90.00, and it would have been more, but fortunately I twigged half-way through the aprogramme. I signed off to a mouthful of abuse!
I still get calls now and then from these scamsters, and what I do is say:”I’m sorry but I can’t understand you, would you put me through to one of your English-speaking operatives, please!”

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TA

I am really pleased that Which? is taking up this issue. It is very disturbing to think that there are some people in society who care so little about others that they torment them in this way. I have taken the issue up with my MP who has been communication with the Information Commissioner’s Office on my behalf. However, I have come to the conclusion that only a change of law and very stiff penalties, together with some advances in telephone technology might have an effect. One problem in reporting any cold calls is that often the callers refuse to tell you their phone number or the address of their company and many of the recorded calls do not even tell you who they are. The number recorded on 1471 often does not exist. With foreign callers – usually from India or the Philippines, although they will tell you they are from Manchester or London – they are usually calling on Skype or other VOIP provider, so you cannot trace their calls as far as I am aware. As far as the computer people from India are concerned, I usually try to waste their time for as long as possible when I have the time to do so. I used to get a call most days from them. Now I haven;t had one for several weeks so maybe they have got the message. But I don’t hold out too much hope!

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Sam

Registered with TPS about a year ago because I was getting so many cold calls I’d stopped answering my landline, as it seems many others have. It’s something I pay for. Why should these scum (espcially PPI w*****s stop me from using my landline).
I get fewer now, but the ones I do get all tend to be from call centres in India who are now disguising their actual numbers – got one the other day where a trace on the number turned out to be a B&B in Wisconsin! – and TPS can do nothing about it seemingly.
I pay for caller ID now so if I don’t know the number it doesn’t get answered, though occasionally I do if I feel the need to tell someone to F**K OFF.

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wavechange

I have just had an important call from Virgin Money. The number was withheld, so I had my usual rant, explaining that I get lots of number-withheld nuisance calls.

Virgin is not alone and many reputable organisations do withhold their number. The university that I worked for did this, most of the time. Most callers are not able to explain why their organisation withholds their number, but I have had a few plausible explanations over the years.

It annoys me that people are making money from selling devices that block withheld numbers. They may do what they claim to do, but I don’t see them as very useful.

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wavechange

Sorry – I did not make it clear that the call from Virgin Money was about an account and certainly not a nuisance call.

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Rachel Cobb

I am so tired of nuisance calls and texts. I especially worry because my youngest child ( a mid-teenager) is autistic and doesn’t always know if calls are genuine or not. When they first began she thought they hung up because it was her fault!
Now when there is a call that comes from an unknown number I answer in a different language or pick up but say nothing – just giving them their own medicine – if they want to waste their money let them but they’re not ruining my life in the process. I will be the one smiling when they go down the pan.

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phyllis bloor

i like every one else fed up with nuisance phone calls my brother who lives on his own in accomodation gets a lot of phone calls also a huge phone bill he has speech problems and every time he he gets phone calls he rings me to see if i have rang him and so it goes on it is upsetting for him as he doesnt no who it is so the sooner this is seen to the better it is worrying for the old people especially when there is nobody at the other end

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Topher

Wikipedia says this. . . .
The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is a UK register of domestic telephone numbers whose users have indicated that they do not wish to receive sales and marketing telephone calls. Registration is free of charge. The service is paid for by the direct marketing industry. There is a similar service for corporate users, the Corporate Telephone Preference Service (CTPS). Similar services are available in other countries.
It is a legal requirement that companies do not make such calls to numbers registered on the TPS; however the TPS has no powers of enforcement. Enforcement is the responsibility of the Information Commissioner, which until 2012 did not have suitable legal powers to act, but in 2012 acquired the power to impose fines of up to £500,000, although enforcing the rules was not easy given the vast amounts of money that companies which flouted the rules stood to make.

So the information commissioner is the person we want – Christopher Graham

Once Which has gained lots of complainants it just has to write a letter in its role of ‘super consumer’ I think it is called, and everything will be fixed except for the overseas callers. They will need sorting by international treaty, so no hope there.

Or am I being too cynical?

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alfa

I agree that there needs to one organization with the clout to take these parasites to task.

Maybe there could be a system where they can only phone you if you register that you want to hear from them otherwise they would be commiting a crime that they could be prosecuted for.

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mikkadol

I pay for caller display on a BT landline and have a number of friends and relatives in France. Calls from France come up on caller display as ‘UNAVAILABLE’ and I am forced to pick-up all such calls and of course a significant proportion turn out to be nuisance calls.

Can anybody with telecoms expertise explain why international calls cannot be processed/conditioned such that they activate caller display as for local calls ie identify the caller as attributed in my phone’s directory?

With this functionality I could then adopt the strategy of letting any ‘unknown caller’ to pass through to the answer machine. If the unknown caller had important info to impart then presumably they would take the time to leave a message. Cold callers and automated calls are probably programmed to terminate the call if an answering machine is detected and anyway to get you to call back they’d have to identify themselves.

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Topher

Can any readers in France clarify the France telecom service offering? I believe it goes something like this. . . . An incoming call with number withheld is intercepted by France telecom. The caller is asked to speak his name and phone number. If this is acceptable the call is answered.

If I have got this right it would be the answer to all the problems. The cold callers would hang up, genuine callers like me would be answered. All my calls are ‘international’ because I use VoIP which does not allow caller ID. VoIP is tremendously much cheaper than any other service.

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M Dagg

I could scream with frustration at the number of nuisance calls I get – despite being registered with “Telephone Preferences”. Apart from the usual PPI mis-selling, and solar heating companies, I had a car accident 3 years ago (cash for crash!) and was bombarded by claim companies urging me to sue for personal injury … which I didn’t have! They were persistent, and I’d like to know how they got my telephone number …. logically, it must stem from the insurance company! Another irritation is the “just doing research …” ploy. I’ve actually reach the stage where I’m being abusive before slamming down the ‘phone! Please, please, make them go away!

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Jay

I seem, now, having been TPS registered for years, to finally have almost stopped getting sales calls from the UK (and any I do still get I give very short shrift & report them to TPS) But this week the number of calls I’ve had from overseas numbers has increased dramatically – several a day – and of course these are the ones that I can’t do ANYTHING about – partly because they’re overseas but also because they’re “surveys”, so are exempt from any guidelines.
Heartily, deeply fed up having just taken ANOTHER one, at 7.30 in the evening, from someone very pushy who wanted to offer me a “free survey to save you money”.
And prior to this round of overseas calls, it was endless recorded messages about PPI/debt management etc. Aaaaaaarrgghhhh!!!!!

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WaterTiger

I had over 20 calls yesterday; one from Sky, which I didn’t want, but at least I am actually signed up with the company; and the rest from India, doing the old ‘something wrong with your computer’ routine. I said I wasn’t interested and hung up; they rang back immediately; this was repeated for several goes. Later in the day, it all started again. I said I didn’t have Windows; they rang back and said ‘something wrong with your Linux machine’. I switched the answerphone on for a while. Later it all started again, so I let them have the rape alarm down the mouthpiece (I seem to have lost my whistle) for a minute and hung up. Guess what? They rang straight back… The phone’s ringing NOW this minute… yep: India calling, third time today (so far).

Is there nothing that can be done about the overseas calls? I bet the Indian government would be complaining to the Foreign Office if the UK was bombarding Indian homes with nuisance calls!

And why, BTW, should the UK telephone suppliers be allowed to collude? As far as I can tell, they are all making a nice packet out of add-ons such as ‘Anonymous Caller Reject’ and ‘Choose to refuse’, which cost more than double the amount of extras like ‘Caller Display’, but presumably are still a simple automated system… These services should be available FREE and provided AS STANDARD. They should NOT be treated as luxuries.

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