/ Home & Energy

Scam watch: have you been cold called by a boiler scam?


Be warned, cold calls flogging new boilers are on the rise. But as John suspected these are likely to be a scam.

John told us: ‘I’ve received cold calls from a range of numbers. The calls consist only of a recorded male voice telling me about new boiler regulations in Europe. It says that every household in my local area must install a new A-rated boiler by the end of 2016.

‘I am confident that existing non-A-rated domestic boilers will continue to be legitimate until they reach the end of their economically serviceable lives – and that these calls are a potential scam. I shudder to think what sales pitch some naive consumer might receive if they were to press the relevant button to follow up the call.’

Our advice on suspicious calls

Unfortunately, it appears there’s been an increase in cold callers trying to convince people they need a new boiler since the introduction of the Energy-related Products (ErP) Directive in September 2015.

As part of this directive, boilers and other electrical products must meet new minimum energy efficiency requirements in order to be sold in Europe.

However, existing products aren’t affected by these regulations, so we’d imagine you’re correct to assume this is a ploy to trick you out of money. You should report these calls to the police, trading standards and Action Fraud. Don’t forget that you can also report the call to us too.

Never buy anything as a result of unsolicited contact. However, if a sale is agreed over the phone, then the Consumer Contracts Regulations apply and you have 14 days to cancel penalty-free.

Have you been nuisance called about an A-rated boiler?

[UPDATE 17 MARCH 2016] – A Scottish boiler replacement company has been fined £180,000 for making millions of automated nuisance calls. Glasgow-based FEP Heatcare Ltd made 2,692,217 unwanted automated calls between April and July 2015.

And despite being warned to stop making illegal calls by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), FEP started to do so again by bombarding people with recorded messages. The ICO traced these calls to FEP Heatcare even though the calls didn’t identify a caller.

Our executive director Richard Lloyd said:

‘The ICO is right to hit companies with hefty fines for bombarding people with nuisance calls, especially when they fail to listen to previous warnings.’

FF1981 says:
14 February 2017

Also get called several times a day say if I have no gas supply to my property I am entitled to a free boiler, press 2 to speak to advisor and 9 to opt out. Always delete message or hang up and always a witheld number or number missing a digit. Which, I hope you’re monitoring all this and perhaps start to help us do something about it.

Arrrrgh been getting loads of these stupid calls over the last week to my mobile. More annoying as they keep leaving a half voicemail which I end up having to check and delete. Today I actually managed to answer and press 9 to opt out, but by the sounds of it that isn’t going to do much good!

Mine have been going on since early December and no relief from this even with the free BT call protect or a Callblocker. As previous posts have mentioned the numbers change each time and are a digit short (10) so there is no possible way of blocking these without affecting other calls that may be important. Unless something is done about this soon I am seriously considering cancelling my landline with BT, it is not fit for purpose, I am unable to switch my answer service on (it fills up within a few days with the nuisance calls), so therefore I am paying for a service that I cannot use! I find it unbelievable that BT are unable to stop these calls and it seems the calls are coming through via VOIP? Does it suit BT to ignore the problem which is getting worse, I can only assume they make good revenue from these calls and selling the enhanced package of the call protect? I would be interested to know if the paid service stops these calls as this would explain the reluctance to resolve the issue. I am TPS registered (irrelevant), I contacted the ICO who could offer no help (the lady I spoke to wasn’t very helpful or friendly) and suggested I email my local MP and BT suggested I use the new call protect service (useless). It seems the only way I can stop this is to no longer to have a landline (which other people I know affected by this are thinking the same). Surely there are enough people affected by this issue that someone can push BT to sort this problem out as I am sure they will lose more revenue by losing customers than allowing this to continue? Can anyone stop these boiler calls!!!!!!

Andrew Sturmey says:
3 March 2017

Trisha, I agree with everything you say (see my previous posts above). Isn’t the silence of both BT and Which deafening? I wonder what needs to be said or done before they’re shamed into commenting?

Linda says:
3 March 2017

For the last 3 weeks we have been receiving calls about free boilers in our are. Maybe 3 a day all from different numbers sometimes withheld sometimes international. Today 0194722788 rang. I pressed 2 and got through to a girl with an northern accent called Kelly. I asked why I was continually being called and she said that there were twenty companies using the same numbers I sais I was on the TP service and she said you will have to ring them all then won’t you and put the phone down.

Maureen says:
12 March 2017

Frequently. I press 9 to be removed from their calling list – to no avail.
Sometimes an English female voice/ once a Scottish one.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I agree with Duncan.

BT charge 55p if you press whatever number it is to ring back, and you have no idea what pressing 9 might do, where it will go, and how much you might get charged.

Also please never be tempted to call them back.

I’ve entered 60+ calls rec’d in last 3 months into a spreadsheet…and there have been lots more either deleted from answering machine prior to logging them or when machine became choked by sheer volume of calls (almost all re Windows and Boilers). It appears scammers have finally figured out that there’s no mains gas in my area as focus switched to oil / LPG boilers a few weeks back. I’m sending calls list to my MP to backup complaint letter but not holding out much hope of early resolution.
Has anyone any stats. re ‘break-even’ point for cold calls? For example if 1 in 10 were to take up their ‘offers’ the operation would be extremely profitable whereas 1 in 1 million would quickly result in their operations folding. If, via publicity, the public could be persuaded never to respond the ‘break-even’ point would be breached on the downside and problem would go away whereas relying on BT, ISP’s and the ISO to address the problem scammers will always be several steps ahead, not to mention the issue of International cold calls.

Me too! We now leave our answerphone on all the time and only pick up if we want to speak to someone.
I am particularly concerned that if you don’t want to take up the offer, you should press “9”. I think this is very risky but I am sure there are plenty of people out there who could be duped into doing so. I thought there were new laws in place to stop this type of call.

As posted upthread it’s strongly recommended ‘NEVER’ to respond to keypad options (or to answer call in the first place); to do so informs the scammers that the number called is ‘active’ and thus become a candidate for a ‘suckers list’ which would then increase volume of calls exponentially.
With regard to the new laws in place (including making directors of organisations making illegal calls personally liable which is due to happen shortly) the problem is that it takes the ICO months to assemble a case against the perpetrators by which time they could be long gone thus making assets for potential sequestration very hard, and expensive, to trace. The ICO has a big problem upfront in that virtually all the calls I’ve received in the past few months have been from a different number, often a digit short, with result that extra effort (and cooperation from likes of BT) is required to pinpoint the actual offenders. This factor, together with numerous calls originating outside of the UK, have led me to the conclusion that the only viable option to contain the problem is to educate Joe Public simply never to respond. Minimal response rates will kill the cold calls much more effectively than regulation.

One other option I’d like to see explored is an obligation placed on telephone service providers and ISP’s to ‘spot check’ customers who are making (say) > 500 automated calls per day to ensure they are TPS-compliant and to deny further service to deliberate offenders. The worst offenders should be placed on a list for the Industry so that other service providers are aware of the risks of taking on their business. This action, of course, does not address issue of International callers but if it makes it harder to operate from the UK it has the effect of increasing scammers’ cost base.

TPS only applies to “live” marketing calls (i.e when a human calls you).

However, automated phone calls, (i.e recorded messages), cannot be legally made unless the person receiving the call has given their permission to the caller. Of course enforcing this law is an entirely different matter!

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Duncan, any thoughts on how the increasing use of fake caller id’s (spoofed numbers) affects ability of ICO to trace identity of callers? I’ve reported 60+ calls to ICO in past few weeks, nearly all from different, almost certainly fake, numbers. It’s quite a lot of effort on my part and if ICO can’t trace caller readily it’s not good use of my time.
Also would it be readily feasible for telephone service providers (such as BT) to change caller id default settings so that the real (billing) number is displayed as opposed to ‘spoofed’ numbers? To do so would clearly require a Gov’t directive but if it’s possible I’ll put suggestion to my MP. As it stands, caller id is only partially effective, at least as far as I’m concerned given that a few months ago boiler scammers switched from constant block of numbers (0844…) to random numbers; as a result we now use caller id to check if caller is on our contact list…and if it isn’t we simply don’t answer.
I’ve sent MP spreadsheet listing the 60+ calls as it always helps to build a case for action by submitting logs of actual events; my covering letter explained why MP’s original suggestion to use BT’s ‘Call Protect’ had not addressed the problem as fake, truncated numbers render this function virtually ineffective.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Duncan, appreciate the reply and it confirms what I expected namely that only a fraction of the ‘digital footprint’ of an incoming call is available to telephone subscribers. On this basis it’s actually not hard for ICO to trace true source of incoming calls based on date / time and number called even when complainant reports the fake number displayed. My call logging equipment has a limitation in this regard when caller id is ‘unavailable’ my system shows number of such calls received since last list clear-down but only date and time of the most recent call. As a result when I’m away I can only report the most recent of calls flagged (caller number) ‘Unavailable’.
Caller id in UK was very useful for the first few years after introduction but the many instances of fake numbers have severely compromised its functionality. Blocking numbers beginning with zero and ‘white listing’ known contacts is not really the answer as there are situations such as ‘borrowed’ mobile phone or very infrequent contacts by local tradesmen etc. where the blocking disrupts legitimate incoming calls. I’ve also been called by scammers using more sophisticated fake numbers made to appear as if they are coming from local exchanged…clearly with intent that local calls are more likely to be answered.
The real answer (apart from achieving very low ‘take-up’ rates) would be to implement the US process whereby overseas telephone service providers and ISP’s who tolerate abuse of their systems by scammers are liable for financial penalties, including sequestration, in the UK as far as their UK subsidiaries are concerned. For example if source was Vodafone India then UK authorities could go after Vodafone UK. Such a system would force major operators to clean up their act.

I like the sound of your final paragraph, Chris. I think that is the only realistic sanction. Whether the UK government would implement it [and it might contravene some EU regulation at the moment] is a stumbling block, but if enough pressure were placed on MP’s we might be able to move towards a solution since technical processes seem to have failed with curbing international calls.

Duncan, an afterthought – maybe I’m missing something but why would a legitimate business such as a lawyers / insurers wish to disguise their phone number and / or country of origin for their calls? I fully appreciate that they might want incoming calls directed to another number but numbers can be setup for ‘outgoing calls only’ which overcomes this issue.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I’m pleased to report that the nuisance callers appear to have been defeated following installation of a call-blocker a few days ago. Unless ‘white-listed’ or able to state name and press required key (which robotic calls can’t) the house phones don’t ring and caller details are captured by the call-logging process. In order to have a smooth start without blocking genuine local callers I’ve used wild cards to white-list 4 exchanges from which our genuine callers mostly originate.
One of the larger tasks when moving to a call-blocker is to migrate the list of known contacts, hopefully without having to re-input them all manually. As the device instructions covered the basics and not the ‘import / export’ process I used a workaround to add a couple of entries manually, white-listing or black-listing them as appropriate and then exported the list; it was then a simple matter of using a spreadsheet to arrange my existing contacts in this same format and import resulting text file into the new call-blocker.
Duncan, despite having a couple of mobiles with the same numbers for some years there have been virtually no nuisance calls to these mobile and 99%+ of nuisance calls were routed to the landline. Any idea why this is the case (my theory is that it’s generally more expensive to call mobiles which is probably enough to destroy profitability of the scammers)?

Received a call from 01665 337 3478 at 10.14 this morning. English female voice in a recorded message informing me of the governments free boiler replacement scheme for people on benefits. Then says ‘To speak to a person to see if you qualify press 2. To opt out press 9.’
We have been receiving these calls 2 to 4 times per week for at lease 6 months.
We know the government does have such a scheme but would a government agency make blind cold calls?
The lady does NOT mention people on low income who could possible qualify, only people on benefits.
My gut feelings are: Surly a government agency would know names and addresses of ones on benefits, and ones who are not! Plus IF they were a legit government agency the caller would know that we are NOT on benefits, never have been, now retired ~ never likely to be.
So why waste money continually calling us, we may be retired but still got my full bag of marbles!

This comment was removed at the request of the user

The calls are still happening. We get them most days. They now come from 0164 756 72727.

We are receiving at least one call a day from an untraceable number trying to tell us about Boiler replacement schemes. It starts with an automated call just like what Wendy Craig describes. We got fed up so actually pressed ‘2’ to get a call back and try to identify which company is calling us and report them.
We were called back twice but failed each time to get the company name, despite pretending to be interested. As soon as they start asking you questions, they realise you’re not on benefits or something else you say doesn’t interest them and they hang up on you. This is really, really annoying us now and I’d like to get to the bottom of it..

Peter says:
21 June 2017

I dont believe for one minute that the Scottish company will actually pay any fine. They will retreat behind insolvency. Regulators lack the will to deal with this endless menace. Governments too hide behind the telecom companies. I suppose they think a call centre is another job in the stats. I receive almost daily calls on withheld numbers about boilers and benefits. Nothing has stopped them in 6 months. The regulators web page is useless as they do not accept complaints if there is no company identified and a phone number. I just don’t believe either that they cant stop these when they are sourced abroad. The telecoms community make money from them, and so won’t tackle them. I despair of our increasingly spivvy society. I am afraid the government is complicit.

We are getting at least one call a day from a withheld number claiming to be from a company called “boilers on benefits”. Cannot block them as relatives who withhold numbers need to get through. Is there anything that can be done to stop these people?

Why not play them at their own game and encourage everyone to respond (Press 2) on EVERY call they receive and when called back by a human keep them talking and lead them down the line as far as possible. Eventually the company has to identify themselves. Then report them to the authorities.

Some years ago I had the problem of cold calls from kitchen installers. The chap who drove 70+ miles to design my new kitchen was ‘very disappointed’ when I told him that I had wasted his time like he and his cohorts had been wasting mine.

This comment was removed at the request of the user


Don’t you think their system knows the line is “live” by virtue of the fact that you answered in the first place. Their machine will carry on dialling numbers regardless of the line’s status or whether you press a key or do nothing. This is borne out by the number of people reporting here and similar sites saying that they hang up but still receive more calls.

‘Cold calls’ and SPAM are a fact of life until the authorities do something about it. If ‘cold calls’ become a problem I would insist on a new number from BT as I did with another provider some years ago. Anyone I would want to contact me either uses or at least knows my mobile number. I only have a landline due to the arcane need to have one to get an internet connection. Once that requirement goes so will the landline.

My job means that I can seldom answer live calls during the day, at night my phone is on ‘Do Not Disturb’ so there is only a small window where a ‘cold call’ will get through to me, if it doesn’t display a number and I’m not expecting a call it doesn’t get answered.

My email provider does a very good job of blocking SPAM, it’s a very bad month if one SPAM message actually hits my Inbox, I get one or two in my SPAM folder (however these are usually unsolicited messages from companies/sites I have made legitimate contact with previously) along with one or two non-SPAM messages (but usually only advertising), these are easily dealt with.

The ‘new digital techniques’ you describe are in fact useful, as one company trying to contact me legitimately was able to identify that their emails were not getting through to me so they sent me the message by ‘snail mail’ and requested I modify my SPAM rules to allow their messages, which I duly did.

Not to digress too far, Thunderbird blocks emails containing mostly images to avoid a text message being drawn which would not be picked up by its text filtering. Gmail will use OCR on images to look for ‘hidden’ text and only block the image if it believes it contains drawn text that violates its SPAM rules.

I have been using the internet at work for longer than most people reading this have owned a computer let alone known what the internet was, and was using Demon on a dial-up connection as my ISP at home in the early 90s so was probably one of the first in the country to suffer from SPAM.

I am well aware of the techniques used to harvest information online. However, life on the internet would be pretty insular if you adopted all the defences you suggest. Let’s face it, there are 3 unsolicited adverts on this page alone, who knows what HTML code will allow those ads to do in the not to distant future. Passing the mouse over an item will be sufficient to elicit a response, it doesn’t need a click.

Targeted advertising on web pages isn’t an issue, the advertising is going to be there anyway so it might as well be something that I am interested in, Since targeted advertising took off, I no longer get advertising for Viagra.

I use an ad-blocker which does away with most of the advertising anyway, including the three ads on this page. If a site only allows access without an ad-blocker I will only proceed if I have a desperate need to access that site, otherwise I will go elsewhere to access that content.

If I access a site that has intrusive advertising (mostly those with instant playing video or audio) I will email the owner and advise that I will not use their site while they continue to use such advertising , this happened on a forum I use and after several complaints from various users, the intrusive advertising was removed.

Please don’t think I’m knocking you, I do appreciate the help you give to those without the knowledge to deal with these things. Unfortunately ‘the genie is out of the bottle’ and if people are going to play in this commerce driven digital world they need to face up to it.

Lucia de Sa says:
18 July 2017

I have been receiving several calls everyday from people claiming to offer free boilers. The latest number is +44 20 3432 2887.

Mike Mason says:
25 August 2017

Can anyone tell me how to make these wretched callers go away?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Hi Mike,
A few things you can try:
Don’t answer unknown numbers. If it is important they will call you back, and you can look the number up on the internet.
example number
01234567890 – no quotes required
“01234 567 890” – put in double quotes and move spaces around to get different results.

If you can, add the caller to your phone, add with zignore. I start with z so they go at the bottom.

Whatever they are selling you’ve just had it done like loft or wall insulation, double glazing, new boiler.

You don’t own a computer so there is no point in them asking you to turn on your computer. They cannot tell if you are telling the truth or not, they just guess that most people have one.

You have just changed energy supplier, replaced your phone, started a new contract.

You have never had an accident or tripped on a pavement and you don’t know anyone else either.

PPI are more persistent so I just say I have never had it. They might tell you it would have been hidden and you wouldn’t know but don’t believe them.

There is not a lot you can do about recorded messages, just never be tempted to dial a number to be removed as you could get a nasty surprise on your phone bill. Also never call back missed calls unless you know who they are.

Get the point? They might test you a few times, but if you stick to your story, they do give up when they work out it is pointless to call you. The above is not perfect, but should dramatically cut down the number of calls you get.

Molly says:
29 August 2017

I’ve received these calls for months often several times a day. There is a number given to press if you don’t want to receive these calls but is it safe to do so?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I’m getting them 4 times a day. I’m with EE I’ve changed my no and gone exdirectory and blow me they are still ringing me. It’s international no according to my phone. ( No shows up )

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Andrew Sturmey says:
6 November 2017

I have to admit that having severely criticised BT’s Call Protect earlier in this thread, it now seems to be working effectively. A combination of the BT blacklist, my blacklist and a ban on unrecognised numbers have reduced scam calls to approximately one a week, whilst my BT account shows that 170 calls have been sent to a junk voicemail box (which I can check) in the last month. ‘Unrecognised’ appears to mean ‘not a real number’ as plenty of genuine numbers that have never phoned me before get through fine, whilst a genuine call has never been blocked to my knowledge. Obviously you need to be with BT to get this service, but if like me you’re been driven mad by automated calls saying that you can get a new boiler if you’re on benefits, or that there’s a problem with your Windows Account etc etc this is well worth considering.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I received lots of ‘international’ calls/new boiler scheme/benefits – so one day I pressed the button to be called back and this morning my caller iD said 07804430799 A scottish voice said ” boiler replacement scheme here ….”
I said ” Can I ask who you are ? ” Her- ” I have just told you , boiler replacement scheme ….”
me -“have you got a company name and phone number please…?” She said ” Shut up and go and get a life you silly old man ” and rung off . I checked the id. number with 1471 and dialled it ….. ” the number has not been recognised ………” ! Hopefully they will remove me from their list ! I have been registered with Telephone Pref. scheme for years and also the Postal Scheme .

Rod, please never call these numbers back or press any buttons, not even if it is to be removed from their ‘list’ as you could be connecting with a premium rate number in another country and get billed for the privilege.

Always search the internet for unknown phone numbers. Your number is listed here with plenty of comments:

If you cannot find anything on your number, don’t assume it is okay as some scammers are using unknown numbers so they don’t get caught out.

Andrew Sturmey says:
8 May 2018

All gone quiet on this thread for some time now. Is this because, like me, people have found that the level of cold calls received has reduced almost to zero? If so, why is this? I know there was a prosecution recently that took out a prolific cold caller, but I’d be surprised if this is the only factor.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Andrew Sturmey says:
8 May 2018

Never stop thinking Duncan, it makes the brain rot! But seriously, my point is that BT Call Protect shows you on your app the calls it has blocked, and there used to be lots of them. Now it’s rare for it to block more than one a week, but still little or nothing gets through. Just wondering if others are experiencing the same, or if I’m just having a run of good luck?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Andrew Sturmey says:
9 May 2018

Always happy to post when I’ve got something to say Duncan, but as you can see from the above, it’s all very quiet at the moment.

Until about three years ago I was receiving a large number of nuisance calls but they have more or less stopped. I guess that most people are fed-up with these calls and would not be interesting in marketing calls. I’m happy with my nineteen year old boiler and the service engineer advised me to keep it because it was likely to be more reliable than a new one, even if it was not quite as efficient.