/ Technology

Will BT’s blacklist stop nuisance calls before your phone rings?

Phones hanging

In the latest win for our Calling Time on Nuisance Calls campaign, BT is launching a free service to block nuisance calls before they even get to you.

BT’s new nuisance call blocking service is set to launch later this year, and follows similar commitments previously announced by TalkTalk.

BT blocks nuisance calls

The phone provider says it will harness ‘huge computer power’ to analyse and monitor calls to its 10 million customers, with any rogue numbers (generally those that make a huge volume of calls) being added to a ‘blacklist’. Incoming calls coming from these numbers will then be diverted to a junk voice box.

This blacklist will also be expanded if lots of BT’s customers identify unwanted numbers they want to divert.

BT estimates that this will block up to 25 million unwanted calls each and every week.

You’ll also be able to divert unwanted calls to your own personal ‘blacklist’, adding individual unwanted numbers and nominating whole categories of calls you want to avoid, such as international calls or withheld numbers. BT will then prevent these types of calls from reaching your home.

More action against nuisance calls

This is a big step in the right direction for millions of BT customers, but it’s not the end of nuisance calls.

Our campaign, which now has more than 300,000 supporters, has prompted lots of action from the Government, regulators and now technology companies, but there’s still more to do. We need to see more action taken by the industry and the Government to reduce the anxiety caused by unsolicited calls.

Are you happy to see BT bringing in a way to block nuisance calls even before the phone rings? Do you want other companies to follow suit?

Updated 17 January 2017: BT launches call blocking service

BT has launched its new ‘Call Protect’ service, which aims to block up to 30 million nuisance calls a week.

If you’re a BT customer you’ll be able to opt into the service for free. The service will divert nuisance calls before they even reach your home, unlike the call blocking devices you can buy separately.

Vickie Sheriff, our Director of Campaigns and Communications, said:

‘We have long campaigned for tougher action to tackle this problem and it’s encouraging to see new technology being rolled out as part of the solution.

‘Now it needs to deliver results for the millions of people harassed every day by nuisance calls, and we expect other companies to follow suit with their own solutions.’

If you’re with BT, would you opt in to its new nuisance call blocking service? Do you, like 100% of 3,800 voters, want other telecoms providers to follow suit?


This is encouraging and I hope it works well. Better than BT making money from selling call blocking phones. 🙂

Let’s support BT in what they are doing. If they have developed a technical solution to deal with the problem I wonder what proportion of nuisance calls it will block. Personally I will not block International calls – we receive legitimate ones – nor withheld calls as many public and private organisations use this description. We could insist that the latter practise is stopped? It is very frustrating to receive a call from someone and not know their number, or that of the board it is routed through.

Once the service is up and running it will make it much less worthwhile for cold callers to cold call – many will become a waste of time. So maybe the “industry” will go into a natural decline? My concern would be the automated calls where it wouldn’t matter how many calls are blocked as long as some get through.

Do we know whether other phone providers will be able to follow suit quite quickly using the same technology? Perhaps Ofcom could require BT to license the software – if that is the key – to other providers for a fair commercial price.

Hopefully the Call Protect service will be applied at the switchboard so that there is no need for software to be licensed and everyone benefits.

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duncan, because if BT have a good way of dealing with nuisance calls there is no point in others having to “reinvent the wheel”. Which is why I suggested BT sell the technology to others at commercial rates to capitalise on their investment in time and resource.

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This amounts to saying that BT encourages nuisance calls because of the revenue it creates. If it has developed an effective method of blocking them before they can create revenue this seems to contradict that view. No point wasting its time otherwise.

As for call blocking phones, if they were developed as one of the only methods we could use at the time, and as developments cost money, then why should they not make a financial profit out of their sale?

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Altruism is a familiar concept to biologists but hardly a priority in business. The companies providing us with phone services need to pull together to sort out a problem that has caused much suffering for their customers. They can manage to sort out sharing costs without us worrying about it.

It was me who mentioned call-blocking phones.

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I agree with Duncan. It’s no good just diverting bad calls down a waste pipe – there needs to be follow-up enforcement action to penalise the perpetrators and stop them from doing it again with another set of numbers. They should hand the details over to Ofcom and encourage them to deal with them with fines and technical sanctions.

The advantage of this service is that if changes are needed they can be made without customers taking action.

I have my own call blocking service I do not lift the phone for any number that is not on my calls list which appear as names The list is added too and deleted from as necessary If anyone need to ring me I ask for the number that they will ring from if they cannot provide one I say their call will not get answered The alternative is to give me the day and time they will call then a will answer calls about that time

Stephen Hayes says:
18 January 2017

I subscribed to BT Call Protect yesterday. In Setup, you have 3 choices. You can divert all international calls to spam where they can leave a message, which I don’t want to do as I get international calls I want to receive. You can divert all withheld numbers to spam, but this would divert a call from the doctor, or a hospital, or one of my children who works for the police. Thirdly you can divert all “unrecognised” calls to spam. Researching this on the internet, with calls with withheld numbers, you can’t see the actual originating number but BT can. With unrecognised calls, BT can’t see the actual originating number. I am diverting unrecognised calls to spam where they can leave a message. I have had two unrecognised calls so far which Call Protect has diverted to spam – the callers left no message so I think I am fine with this. What worries me slightly is where a legitimate business has employees who might use an individual phone line with an individual number but the business has programmed this to show up on caller display with the main switchboard number. I fear that these legitimate calls may be classified as unrecognised, and diverted to spam. Time will tell. You can also dial 1572 after a spam call to block it in future, but spammers who actually leave a number are always changing them.

This is very interesting, Stephen, and I hope you will continue to report your experiences.

Not a good enough solution. If you’re a BT customer then you might think that you might as well use it because it’s free, but as others have said if you’re not very careful with the setup you might end up blocking calls you want to receive. Also many spammers nowadays “spoof” the caller display to show a random geographic number anyway, and this system won’t prevent those. Nor will it block spam calls to a mobile. We just let the call ring if we don’t recognise the number and if it’s legitimate the caller will leave a message.

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I have been plagued by calls, often silent or abandoned calls or by people with very poor English and speaking in an Asian accent claiming their name was Sylvester, Brian, et al; the silent/abandoned calls I registered with Which campaigns the others I reported to the TPS.
Alarmingly the last ‘speaking’ call heard me clearly enough to confirm the name of the company they claimed to be calling on behalf of, but did not respond to any other question but kept repeating “are you on line,” I hung up.
I can honestly say my efforts in reporting these unsolicited calls have seemingly reduced as I reported all these calls to Which and the TPS.
I have signed up to BT’s 1572 Blocking Service; because they are using a list of known cold callers / scammers I do not know if any attempt has been made to contact me from these ‘black listed’ numbers, I do know that no new numbers have left me messages; that said since just before Christmas these calls seem to have reduced.
Report these callers through the Which website / Campaign menu link!

When I receive calls marked ‘unavailable’ I have to answer, as one in a hundred is not some Indian pretending to be the Microsoft help desk, but is my brother in Canada. I have found that if I answer but say nothing the computer at the other end disconnects after about five seconds, but this does confuse my brother.
If BT was serious about protecting its customers they would make caller display available to everyone free and reinstate international caller display which has recently disappeared again.
I use BT as my email provider, and some years ago they switched on the spam filter on my account without my knowledge. It was only when I realised emails were going missing that I investigated, and eventually managed to switch it off. I found the missing emails in my Spam folder and could recover them.
I suspect BT will be similarly inept in recognising nuisance calls. Are we going to be informed about the blocked call, and be given information as to where it originated or even be able to listen to the recording?

I wonder about this…why would BT want to stop 30 million calls a week that earn them big money using the line and connecting ? The scammers and nuisance call firms will find some other way round it or to get to us !

Keith says:
21 January 2017

On a local website, someone said that BT actually charge if you access 1571.
Does anyone know if this is true?
This is not mentioned in the above report.

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Do they still charge the caller 5p a call?

Trying to call someone who has 1571 that goes into BT answerphone in 7 seconds when you know they can’t get to the phone in time and don’t pick up their answerphone messages is a real pain.

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Still a rip-off then.

Keith says:
21 January 2017

Thanks duncan lucas .
I don’t have BT Call-Protect , so how much would I be charged each time I use 1571?

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John says:
21 January 2017

Too late for me – I’ve already bought a Trucall blocker. However, I will stick with my Trucall blocker because I bought it supplied with a recording feature as an optional extra. Having been sold a misrepresented brand new car and the Financial Ombudsman having not upheld my section 75 claim of misrepresentation because I did not have a recording of what was said to me, I have learned the hard way (£26,000) to record every conversation – we do so much verbally/by telephone these days. It would be useful if our telephony providers could make it easy for us to record our telephone conversations, as this could facilitate prosecution of ‘phone based scammers.

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I keep getting calls from what I suspect is an India-based call centre requesting I complete a survey. They called this morning and I have now used BT Call Protect to add their number to my blacklist.

Why when I tried to add Call protect was I told I would have to sign up for a new contract period if I wanted to add this service to my existing contract. It might be free, but only if I sign up to extend my contract. I already have Caller display on my phone

I have been using Call Protect now for a few weeks. I update my blocklist online which is very easy and it has blocked 32 calls now for numbers on my list.
The problem is that most of the calls I get are the recorded ‘boiler scam’ calls (upto 10 a day now) – they seem to use spoof numbers which look like real numbers except they are usually one digit short. They constantly change these numbers so as fast as you block them they generate new ones. It’s illegal for them to do this I understand but firstly the comapny/ies involved do not seem to be being traced and secondly it would appear that they are not bothered at the prospect of some very hefty fines.
So, yes Call Protect is saving me from some nuisance calls but is ineffective against the ever-changing spoof number generators.

I can’t understand why BT (and other phone companies) don’t block calls at source that have an incomplete caller ID, such as the “one digit short” ones you mention. That’s got to be the easiest thing to do surely… if it doesn’t have at least 11 digits it is not genuine phone number!

The BT Call Protect initiative is welcome, but in my experience nuisance callers rarely use the same number twice, so me blocking specific numbers isn’t really effective.

GregT says:
23 February 2017

I can’t understand why BT (and other phone companies) don’t block calls at source that have an incomplete caller ID, such as the “one digit short” ones you mention. That’s got to be the easiest thing to do surely… if it doesn’t have at least 11 digits it is not genuine phone number!

The BT Call Protect initiative is welcome, but in my experience nuisance callers rarely use the same number twice, so me blocking specific numbers isn’t really effective.

Several days since turning on BT call blocking. Was very happy with total suppression of previous typical 3-4 spam calls per day.

However this am caller penetrated, with my local landline reporting “Unavailable” – a category which BT claim to block. On inspecting BT call log, it listed this call with an identified number which by googling I found was widely identified as a scammer. Glitch in BT or clever spammer circumvention?

Eileen says:
11 May 2017

Blocked call got through today. I’ve got BT call protect, the 1572 free one, am I going to get more slipping through or is this just a glitch?

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Eileen says:
12 May 2017

When I did that it said the number was already on my personal blacklist. I checked settings to make sure it was switched on, it was, so how come it got through?

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Eileen says:
13 May 2017

Looked on my personal blacklist and this number was on received list and blacklisted twice , 02304547002 .

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Eileen says:
13 May 2017

I’ll try that. Does BT know about this problem? Thanks for the help.

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i get up to 7 or 8 cold callers a day , only this morning did the same woman phone 3 times one after the other & she was very rude it was an 020 number I also get 023 numbers my husband & I are in our 70 s it is driving us mad, please do domething about it before I go insane

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3 years on and we still get a scam call per day on our BT landline despite Call Protect being switched on. Action needs to be taken at source at an international level.

With the blacklist system, you still get calls the first time. I found that in 8 mins they could hit on my sister and get all they needed. Because my elderly sister with Alzheimer’s was being targeted every day, I took found the only solution was to use the full Call Protect, set the phone system to DO NOT DISTURB 24×7 forcing all calls to go to the Junk Mail. And at the same time created a list of all callers as a VIP list (currently 46) who can call in even if they are from abroad like I am. Anonymous callers also fail.
I have had this in operation for about 4 months now and in that time only 1 or two real calls tried to get through, they were quickly recognizable either from location or as a WhatsApp account and I could contact them and when necessary made them also VIPs. It works a treat, BUT, I would like to be able to blacklist all other callers with a name, so I see if they have called before. Sadly the limit of 100 blacklist callers is nowhere near enough, my sister has been having 96… 56 calls per month, now reducing.
I also search and report every caller to BT who is a known scammer and that way the numbers seem to not come through the next month. We should all do our bit. But BT please increase the Blacklist Limit and also make it possible to be able to wildcard blacklist blockages, i.e. 020 3989* for example.

Good luck, but I can now sleep easier at night have to check the phone, post and bank account less often, before it was multiple times every day, now just 1 or 2 times per day.

You will also have to think a little out of the box when setting this up, will a Taxi service or Hairdresser be calling in, or a Doctor or care person. They all need to be informed and told to give you a “VIP” which they will use. Being in Switzerland, I waited until my sister was out of the house then played with the Do Not Disturb with various variations. I planned it before which tests I would have to make. It works and fortunately my sister no longer realizes what the light is on her phone.