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Can BT’s call-divert service really cut off nuisance callers?

Cutting off nuisance calls

Nuisance calls are a big problem. In response, BT has a launched a new, free nuisance call-divert service. Guest author Kelly from BT Consumer explains how it works.

Many of you here on Which? Conversation will be well aware of the menace of nuisance calls and texts. Indeed, over half a million people have backed the Which? campaign to call time on them.

On average, people receive four nuisance phone calls every week, according to BT research.

The same research also shows that many people find these calls more than just annoying: two-thirds of women and just over half of men find them stressful, and more than a quarter of all people are concerned about their parents or grandparents receiving them.

Nuisance calls are most commonly from accident claims companies, but also regularly include calls from PPI companies plus computer technical support and personal data request scams.

But the big question is what can be done to reduce these calls?


Customer protection

In response to the growing problem, BT has launched its new, free Call Protect service for its customers.

The first of its kind in the UK, it could see 30m nuisance calls per week automatically diverted to a junk voicemail box, before they can be answered.

Data shows that up to 15m calls a week will be blocked from personal accident claims and PPI companies alone.

This has been made possible by technology that processes large amounts of live data to identify rogue numbers (often those calling large numbers of people) and adds them to the BT blacklist.

Personal blacklist

Although the blacklist will divert the top offending nuisance callers, for calls not captured by the technology, customers will be able to compile their own personal blacklist by adding individual unwanted numbers. They do this by dialling 1572 after receiving the call or by going online.

If large numbers of customers identify troublesome numbers they wish to divert, these will be added to the wider BT blacklist.

Customers can also set BT Call Protect to divert whole categories of calls such as unrecognised calls or those from withheld numbers. The service will then prevent these types of calls from reaching the home by diverting them into the junk voicemail.

This is a guest contribution by Kelly Barlow from BT Consumer. All views are Kelly’s own and not necessarily those shared by Which?.

Do you think BT’s call-divert service will work? If you aren’t¬†a BT customer, would you like your phone provider to offer a similar service and what else do you think can be done to crack down on nuisance calls?

Comments

Well, I’m not impressed so far. Dialing 1572 returns a “The call can not be connected” and I’ve still had scam calls, luckily the phone still works and blocks them. I was told my problem was at the local exchange and when I rang today after confirming 1572 was still not working I was told the exchange was fixed on Friday. Shame no one bothered to ring and ask me to test it. So the case has been re-opened, so I’ll have to wait to report nuisance calls. FYI the call today was 01341075058 and I believe they would have claimed to know something about my computer. Probably another spoofed number.

Can the new service allow me to block all spoofed numbers? Or all calls from Indian call centers ?

Hi Kelly, I got an email from BT on 16th January saying “We’re all done, Now you ready” after registering for the service on the 15th. Yet when I ring 1572 I still get ( just tried it now) “The service can not be connected”. I gather Openreach have been out twice to the local exchange I’m guessing it’s still not sorted. ūüôĀ

Just got off the phone from BT (again) apparently Openreach are due to have the issue fixed by 7th Feb. So still not liking this “free” pain in the **** service much. And oh yes, had another nuisance call today. Seems most are pretending to come from 01340 these days.

Yeah it’s working, no more the service can not be connected.

Kelly, if this service is available why have we not had an e-mail from B.T. telling us how to sign up for it. I’ve only found out that this service is live, by reading this forum today,

I agree with you. Have only learned of this free service by reading mail from Which!

I spoke too soon. Yes I can ring 1572 and hear options, but when entering 3 to hear my junk voicemail rather than a nice automated message saying sorry no call to listen to, the line is just dropped. Have to say not overly impressed with the testing or lack there of.

Roy and Irene – BT are notifying their subscribers via an e-mail that announces their new service charges that are coming into effect on 2 April 2017. The new 1572 Call Protect facility is no doubt a sweetener to soften the nasty taste left by the price increases. I can only assume that the e-mails are being released in phases.

I signed up by calling 0800 389 1572 on the 6th of February, got the confirmation email, but I could not use 1572 (“the number you have dialled could not be recognised”) or get access to the website. I called up BT, twice, to get it fixed, but they couldn’t. During the second call, I was advised to call 1571 to set it up myself! I don’t have the 1571 service. I then managed to sign up a second time to BT Call Protect, and received another confirmation email from BT (13/3) stating that the service was set up. But it still doesn’t work. And I still get six nuisance calls per week on average. I am not impressed.

Doesn’t really work with “spoofed” numbers. I get several calls a day telling me that if I am on benefits and “off grid” for main gas, I can get a government funded grant for a new boiler. It is an automated system that tells me to press one number for more information (I don’t) or to press another to be removed (which I don’t). I add each number to my blacklist, but they just change the number each time. The giveaway is that each number is only 5 digits instead of 6. I do report each number to the Information Commissioner, but really don’t know if anything comes of it.

Do you have an email address I can use, rather than put them on this forum? There are rather a lot.

Hi Kelly, in response to the above from Terence, I have a similar problem and I can give you some of the numbers being used– between 20 and 29 January —-0177593698–0188348859–0195694724–0175683929–0199389633–017454422–0189646996. There are a few more , another interesting point is that these calls are not switching off when an answer machine clicks in so they are leaving a message every time . That’s a double nuisance in my books.

keith peers says:
24 January 2017

I think its great. thanks to BT.

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And, duncan, at least someone (a profit-making organisation) has done something to actually tackle the problem. Whether it is perfect or not, it is a big step forward and will no doubt improve as it evolves. Beats just having a moan ūüôā )

Earlier today I was going to reply that although it’s free I bet we’ll get price rises by the end of the year. Seems BT will be notifying people about prices rises by the end of the week. Even worse than I feared.

I still think the best thing they could have been is make caller id free to everyone and not bundle it in with a “package” or “deal”. But hey ho.

Early days but so far it’s working for us. No spam calls since signing up. We chose to block international calls soo by bye Scam Indian calls and also number unavailable. Unfortunately can’t add Number Withheld as hospitals and our doctor insist on using them.

The calls I get are all either “number withheld” or long numbers beginning with 00, which are probably spoofed, and, since they emanate apparently from the USA, are not covered by UK legislation. I am reluctant to block international calls, as I have friends in the USA, and there’s nothing to be done about withheld numbers, it seems. Call blocking works when you can identify a legitimate UK number as the source. Otherwise, it’s of limited use. Similarly with TPS, to which I am signed up: the scam calls I get are all from overseas, and they are clearly just dialling random numbers, so TPS is useless.

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I’ve got a call screening phone, BT 8500, apart from being a pain ringing my cousin who also has one (For some reason my number is withheld but only when I ring her), I’ve only had 2 nuisance calls speak to me in 18 months. It’s way better than the TPS, I highly recommend one for your landline. FYI there is a newer version out, but I have no experience of it.

BT Call Protect allows you to block withheld and unrecognised numbers.

OK, but wouldn’t legitimate calls from the States begin with 00?

John Wilson says:
1 February 2017

True Call is what I use. It is very effective.

keith peers says:
2 February 2017

l think its very good.

Hmm, wait for the adverts promising to stop nuisance calls for free. As soon as enough people sign up for it, BT will start charging for the service just like they did with caller display.

We have used the system for over 6 months and very pleased with its efficiency. As well as the digital handsets we have a wired phoned which still rings (just once) for each call received and we are conscious of the number of calls it prevents. One or two persistent people have got through when given the benefit of the doubt re their numbers. Otherwise it stops 6- 8 calls a week.

Martin says:
25 January 2017

Bravo BT!
Since signing up with this service I have been reduced from 3 or 4 nuisance calls a day to big fat zero. (Touch wood it continues that way).

Peter says:
28 January 2017

I’ve been getting an average of 5 scam calls / week, but since signing up for Call Protect, I’ve only received 1. It was an unusual number, spoofed, so slipped through the net. I didn’t bother to answer it. Checking on the Call Protect page, I can see that 4 “spams” were redirected. So at present this is a vast improvement, and I’m very pleased with the new facility.

I am not a BT customer but have a BT brand phone which is a BLOCKER PHONE . I bought a pair of phones for £50 .00 . They have stopped a multitude of scam calls . One day 11 , yes ELEVEN scam or number withheld calls . Callers can get through if they take notice of the message/instructions that CALL GUARDIAN tells you .
Mobile users can download an app called TRUE CALLER , this does the same as blocker phones and does not cost anything to download or use . this is easy to use if you follow the instructions on screen .

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I’ve had one of those phones for years, can’t praise it highly enough. It does a better job than the TPS, OFCOM, ICO and BT Call Protect combined. The only -ve I could level at it is it doesn’t save the voice messages callers leave when they’re asked to state their name and press #

i am looking at pros and cons here before deciding and as a privacy rights issue this certainly is putting me off. I also get a l ot of calls from Government bodies and number withheld and abroad – many more random but legitimate callers so I think I might risk too much losing those calls (and then having to spend time dialing to pick up any possible nuisance onces leaving messages to make it worth it the risk of the change). Also some on line found your choice was the new service and a 12 months commitment to BT (I have none because I have been their customer for decades) or not although I think they then changed the wording for that. I think I will just wait a while. I do get about 4 calls a day – we had 6 BT lines until recently now down to 4 and hopefully 3 soon (from the old dial up days for internet).

Jane – If the installation of personal call-blockers and BT’s CallProtect system gain mass uptake, as they are progressively likely to do, the game will be well and truly up for telephone scammers. They can see this coming which is why they are getting so annoyed and aggressive in their tone. Their attempted scams are increasingly fruitless and it will not be worth the candle trying to find an attended number on which they can ply their wicked trade. So those of us for whom the facility is not suitable might as well sit it out and hope that the end of nuisance calls is just over the horizon.

I recently purchased a Panasonic phone with a call blocker functionality which allows me to block single numbers, patterned number ranges and withheld numbers. I have set it up to just block withheld numbers and receive very few, if any, nuisance calls at present. This is a surprising and welcome development but it leaves me wondering how many calls it is blocking and if some wanted calls are not getting through as I am feeling a bit like “billy no mates”. This purchase and the call blocking measures have also enlightened me to the BT Caller Display service to which I do not subscribe. Consequently, I can only see a log of outgoing calls and not the incoming. I am resisting having to pay ¬£12 per billing period for this service which should be free in my opinion, but I am wondering if it is the only way in which I will see all the attempted calls to my landline?

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If you pay for your yearly line rental a year in advance you get caller id for “free”.

Caller ID for free; not necessarily. I always opt-in for Caller Display for free, but I have to agree to a new 12 month contract for that service which doesn’t run concurrently with the 12 month in advance line-rental payment contract.

Heather Sword says:
28 January 2017

I was very disappointed with TPS response to my regular calls from “General Accident” asking about the recent accident I had – no, I had not had an accident. Immediately after the last call from them I dialled 1471 to obtain their number and exact recorded time of call; I then contacted TPS with details of my complaint. I received the following response from them:
Re: Your complaint against: CENTRAL ACCIDENT
 
Dear Mrs Sword
 
Thank you for your complaint regarding the receipt of an unsolicited direct marketing call on your Telephone Preference Service (TPS) or Corporate TPS (CTPS) registered telephone number.
 
You may already be aware that the TPS does not have the facilities to know which companies are calling you and therefore relies on the complainant to ascertain this information upon the receipt of an unsolicited direct marketing call.
 
Despite our best efforts, TPS has not been able to ascertain valid contact and/or address details to raise this particular complaint. Please note that even on occasions where a company name and/or telephone number is supplied TPS may still be unable to ascertain valid company details if during the course of our investigation the company name and/or telephone number supplied is found to be fictitious. Please note that TPS does not have the facility to track or trace telephone calls that you have received.
 
Although we have been unable to raise this complaint against the offending company we will make available to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) details of complaints which TPS were unable to raise against the offending company due to lack of valid contact details
 
The ICO are the government body responsible for enforcing the Privacy and Electronic (EC Directive) Communications Regulations 2003. This may enable them to look at trends in complaints being made and where possible identify those organisations who are not complying with the regulations surrounding such calls.
 
The ICO has issued fines against various companies for making unsolicited direct marketing calls to telephone numbers registered with TPS.
 
 
 
Yours sincerely
 
Arthur Cummings
Assistant Manager

It is almost certain, Heather, that the calls are not coming from General Accident, the insurance company. As noted in the letter from the TPS, the originator might be operating under the name “Central Accident” in order to associate it with a reputable company but the calls you have been receiving are attempted scams and not coming from a UK company that is subject to control by reference to the Telephone Preference Service’s list of restricted numbers.

It is impossible for the TPS to stop these calls so the best advice might be for you to try BT’s new free call intercept service which can block calls according to your wishes [as described in the article at the top of this Conversation] or buy your own call-blocker telephone.

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Sceptical says:
28 January 2017

Kelly, can you tell me if there’s a charge when you dial 1572 to listen to the “junk” calls please.

Thanks

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I have called 1572 a number of times and not been charged. In fact it does not even show up on my list of dialled numbers.

JennyS says:
29 January 2017

I signed up a few days ago and I’m very happy with it. The phone is strangely but delightfully silent and I know if any rogue calls do get through it’s simple to block them. I wish it had been available a few years ago when my Mum was alive; I would have signed her up without hesitating. I don’t have a problem with withheld numbers as I’ve worked somewhere in the past where there were several thousand extensions and it was impossible not to withhold your number when dialling out – I sometimes got blamed by customers for not calling when I had tried but couldn’t get through to them because they wouldn’t accept the call.

Like others I would like to see caller display free without having to contract. It apppears to be a feature of the handset so I can’t see why it is charged for.

CSmith says:
30 January 2017

I signed up for this new ‘free’ service – and found that my Call Minder account was then cancelled -despite having been charged for it for this month. I was paying ¬£2.25 a month for it – and have now been told it will be ¬£3.95 a month – and that the price has been increased to pay for the ‘free’ service!

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Kevin says:
1 February 2017

I paid for the BT phone that vets callers and asks for there number it has worked for me. Down from 4/5 a day to none

Ivor says:
1 February 2017

Kevin, I too have a similar phone, BT Call Guardian, it vets calls from numbers that are not in my phone book. Asks them to announce themselves and then calls the phone for me to decide if I wish to take the call, block it or send it to voice maIl. Not had a nusiace call since.
What are BT going to do with a big list of calls from nusiance numbers, block them? I’m already doing that.

If you take the last two calls we had, one yesterday and another today you can see just how ineffectual the proposed BT system is going to be. Yesterday we had a call that purported to come from the Birmingham area. This was the number registered on our phone. Because I answered it and not my wife -who is kinder that am I to these pests-the caller rang off immediately. I rang back the number registered. It did not exist. Then today a similar silent response when I picked up the phone this time from a 01395 672995 number. I rang back and a recoded message said that the number was unavailable. These miserable creatures are well ahead of the game. They are not going to be dissuaded by the latest BT effort to thwart them.

As a BT Customer, I joined immediately. However, it soon became apparent my previously agreed contract for various services had been cancelled/amended, which meant I had to then re-set everything and start from scratch. A lot of unwanted hassle and a BT guise for entering into yet another ‘nothing is for free’ set of parameters!!