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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?

Paula Gilfillan says:
1 February 2017

This is an enlighting posting considering BT used to charge for this service (I was informed I had to buy a £70 phone to block such calls). BT have also not contacted us to notify of this service and so thank you very much for letting me know!

Nuisance call tactics have changed where I live recently. Instead of leaving repeated numbers, all the numbers are 10 digit long and no 2 are the same. This makes it impossible to program them into a blocker phone, as the capacity of the blocker phone, is only for ten numbers. Those responsible for the calls must be using software to transmit random numbers for each call, thus making it impossible to filter offending numbers out for blocking. I also think the people responsible for these calls are providing a service for companies looking for customers. Call centers if you like. This BT call blocking service will not work to redirect random generated number calls.

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On 17th jan I signed for BT Call protect was told it would be working in 48 hrs nothing happened i called again and was told it would be working by the end of the day. On the 1st Feb was told it will 100% be working by 12 midnight tried this am still the same message cannot connect now waiting for a call from case management.

I now don’t pick up calls until I hear a recognised voice leaving a message on my answering machine. This way I receive almost NIL nuisance calls!

Sceptical says:
2 February 2017

I don’t see why I should pay anything to stop these calls. The technology is there and BT/Government should be able to protect me, perhaps not 100% but much better than TPS.

Friends and family know that they have 2 seconds to say something when they phone me because I will put the phone down. The problem with this is that I have to give longer if I’m expecting a call.
If it’s a cold call, the I politely stop them in their tracks and put the phone down.

From what I’ve read, the consensus seem to think that cold callers will get around any system, so again, I don’t see why I have to pay to stop them.

Moggiemag says:
3 February 2017

I don’t think you will have to pay anything extra on your BT account. As I understand it they are launching this as a free service – well free for now at least, they do have a habit of charging for “free” services after 12 months or so

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Moggiemag says:
3 February 2017

Well that was quick and easy, I just rang the Freephone number to place my order for “call protect” and didn’t even need to speak to anyone, just pressed the required numbers on my ‘phone keypad. At the end of the call I was told it would take effect for me within 24 hours…..we shall see

Sceptical says:
4 February 2017

Moggiemag , duncan lucas,

Apologies, I didn’t make it clear that I was referring to someone who said that he had paid to have nuisance calls stopped.

Sounds like the someone you refer too, has fallen prey to a scam.

We signed up for the BT service on Friday and it is already reducing calls. However we have received 13 calls since Friday offering to replace our boiler for free if we are on benefits, all calls from different numbers. How can we stop these?

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Virtually impossible to stop as they spoof the number they are supposed to be calling from. Different number each time. You can blacklist each number, but the company just picks another one and there are a lot of permutations.

We receive a number of spam calls (usually boilers for unemployed) perhaps five or six calls on some days always from a different number. BT 1572 adds these to our blacklist, If however I later try and change the description in my blocklist most of these reject with the message “please use a valid number”. I therefore presume the spammers are simply declaring random numbers as their telephone number and I am blocking nothing from them. It was a nice try BT but I believe your 1572 service has simply been sidestepped by the spammers. I am wasting more of my time to no avail.

They are always 10 digit numbers. Surely BT could block out 10 digit numbers in the same manner they block others.

Interesting that that you get a message telling you that these are not valid numbers. There is an option on this service to block out unrecognised numbers, which I have set to on, but these numbers get through, although BT are telling you they are not valid numbers. If they are not valid numbers, surely they should be blocked.

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The scammers spoof the CLI that is shown on your caller display unit. CLI is never a proof of who is calling.

It would be possible for BT to block all calls where the CLI indicates an area code that is not in use or a number range that remains unallocated. In that case, scammers would simply swap to displaying numbers that are valid and in use but which belong to someone else.

Call blocking based solely on CLI is doomed to failure. The UK numbering plan allows for 10 000 000 000 numbers, plenty of space for scammers to show a different number every time they call.

The trueCall plug-in units and BT 8500 and BT 8600 series Call Guardian handsets take a different and wholly more effective approach. They issue a verbal challenge to all unknown callers and that challenge has to be completed before the phone rings. Scammers, fraudsters, unwanted marketers and cold-callers simply hang up without saying anything and the phone does not ring. Silent calls are also not accepted. Known callers, and those who have been previously issued with a four-digit PIN get straight through without needing to complete the challenge.

The technology exists to deploy the trueCall system within the telephone network itself, thereby making the facilities available to all on landlines and on mobiles. So far, no one has done this.

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It is almost unheard of for scammers and nuisance callers to answer the verbal challenge. Even if they do, you have the option to reject the call without having to interact with the caller – they simply hear a ‘your call has been rejected’ announcement. You call also add the number to a blocked list should they call again and present the same CLI. The multiple approaches make this the most effective solution.

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Brian says:
11 February 2017

Caller ID was free to start with, now you have to pay. This will be the same.

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Most of my nuisance calls are from 10 digit numbers – and Call Protect will not accept 10 digit numbers. I have tried reporting this to BT Faults but they seemed unsure what to do about it.

Just go to the dashboard of Call Protect and bring up the list of recent incoming calls. You will then find an option to add them to your personal blacklist.

Signed up to call protect on-line. Probably my own fault but it disabled caller id and call minder. Following online chat all three re-instated but now have a message that ‘we can’t give you call protect because your local exchange doesn’t support it’. Not mentioned anywhere in the promotion. Adds insult to injury in complementing the broadband speed of 1.6 Mb along our six kilometre copper wire from the exchange. Seem to recall BT used to be a public service provider. Waiting for the electricity company to say we can only have 12 volts and the water supplier to offer only 30 gallons a day.

Charmaine Forbes says:
31 March 2017

Talk Talk land line charged contract breakage fee of ¬£158 in February 2017 even though the contract ended in Nov 2016 and they continued providing service up to Feb.2017, without my agreement; even though I did not agree to start another contract. I however assigned to another provider in 2017 and terminate them as I wanted a better package; Talk Talk communicated that the charge was for breaking the contract? I asked how could I break a contract that never existed? They said they have information I can’t see and, that they are correct, even though I have not had a copy of any such agreement. I see this as a misrepresentation/fraud of larger companies against the consumers. We consumers must form an alliance against such ‘attacks and predatory’ behaviour of Telecommunication and Media companies to try and STOP this or minimise it.

Jan Dodd says:
26 April 2017

I have just found out that I have been paying ¬£40 per month for my phone when my contract actually finished last year so I own my phone. EE say it’s because they were originally with Phones4you but I think it’s appalling. They have now offered me a ¬£10 contract for the same service but for a whole year it seems I was paying ¬£30 too much to them with no notification. This needs to stopped. Any other company would be obliged to notify you in this circumstance

So far most nuisance calls are from abroad or “blocked number” lines so the service cannot recognise nor block them.
Good idea but not very effective.

Ian Rae says:
27 April 2017

This service was working fine but then I discovered that it was blocking the receipt of authorisation code calls from Government Gateway sites and my bank so had to unsubscribe.

Did not sign up to Call Protect because for several months now we have had a phone with Call Guardian. It works very well, we can look at the list of calls and see the withheld, unavailable, obviously impossible numbers, etc, that the phone has blocked and we knew nothing about. Lets people in your phone book get through immediately, and gives the option of accepting or rejecting calls from possibly genuine numbers that are not in your phone book. And it was cheaper than some of the posher “ordinary” phones, a one-off payment, when the BT scheme is likely to become a chargeable option at some time.

Tony Prior says:
27 April 2017

I have cancelled this service because the intervention was upsetting and/or putting off genuine callers

i did not say that i would optin to the service ,i said it was crap and i had stopped using the phone and went back to my old phone it was a waste of £60,especially as i phoned their helpline and was told to look in the instruction book how to shut off their system the service cut off every thing i was not in to take a call .the service cut off that caller and stopped it coming in again and that included my doctor i would give the system minus 10 out of a 100