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Could more be done to protect the most vulnerable from nuisance callers?

Cold callers

The government has committed to funding 1,500 call blockers for the most vulnerable in society – particularly those suffering with dementia. While this is great news, could more be done to protect the most vulnerable from this modern-day menace?

The Prime Minister announced that £500,000 is to be allocated to a project to install trueCall devices into the homes of elderly and vulnerable people. Working with doctors, trading standards officials and councils, 1,500 most at risk people, particularly those with dementia, will receive a call-blocking device.

Protecting vulnerable people

Many of you will know the irritation that nuisance callers can cause; an irritation which can be especially disturbing and distressing for elderly and vulnerable people, and downright dangerous when those callers are in fact scammers.

The fact of the matter is that scammers are cunning at tricking many people into handing over money and personal details. While anyone can fall victim to a scam, scammers do target older and vulnerable people.

Call-blocking devices can screen calls and either ask callers to enter a security code or direct them to call a friend or relative of the home owner.

But with only 1,500 of these devices being issued to the most at risk, what about everyone else?

After all, I’m sure there will be a number of you who will know a friend, neighbour or relative who could benefit from some sort of safeguard in place to prevent nuisance callers or scammers from calling them.

Well, in addition to the devices, the project funding also includes £200,000 for a public awareness-raising campaign – which again is good, but alone will not be enough to protect people from these calls.

Nuisance calls

As many of you will know, we’ve been campaigning for a crackdown on nuisance calls and texts. In October last year, we welcomed the government’s decision to hold directors of nuisance-calling firms personally accountable, facing a fine of up to £500,000 if their firm is found to be making them – but we’re still waiting for this to be introduced.

Since the start of our campaign, we’ve seen more and more fines being issued by the regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), with more than ever being issued in the past year alone.

But the new rules targeting company directors should have a much bigger impact and bring an end to the practice of rogue bosses flouting the rules by closing one business only to set another under new credentials to dodge ICO fines.

So while it’s welcoming to see the government funding call-blocking devices to protect the most vulnerable from nuisance callers, we need it to bring in it’s promised action to hold directors personally accountable and cut these calls at source as soon as possible.

What do you think to this announcement from the government? What more do you think is needed to crackdown on nuisance callers?


Call blockers can be purchased – you don’t have to be one of the 1500. For those with the means – or through family – of course.

The question asked is “can more be done”. We have discussed this before and no complete answer has been forthcoming. Have Which? asked the telecom providers what the best technical solution could be and how much it would coat to implement to protect all of us from nuisance calls that may be really damaging? I cannot see how all such calls can be automatically blocked; how do we know the numbers to bar until sufficient complaints are received? What stops callers changing numbers, using overseas agencies, and so forth? Minimising such calls may be the best we can hope for. Anyone got the answers? Have you researched this in depth, Which?

If you have a BT line then you can sign up to their free service – “BT Privacy” I did that whenever it became available and instead of receiving 6 or 7 cold calls a day… I now only get about that number in a month!! There is also a facility to add any number that is not already in their register of blocked numbers.

I have a call blocker, they are not cheap and they can be very technical to set up and use.

You need to see the calls you are blocking (caller display) and that is not free so more cost the phone owner and more profit for the phone companies, so the £500,000 will come back to the Government in extra tax at some point.

Ron Sunderland says:
14 April 2017

Demand that Govt increase the maximum penalty for conviction to a very large no. of years detention. The potential criminal will then be aware of the risk!

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I assume you realise that the govt is planning on spending £300k on these 1500 units, when you or I can buy very good call screening phones for less than £50 each. Meaning a normal person could buy 5k units for the same money. Someone is making a huge profit out of the suffering of others.

My response is that most people, especially in big business, such as B.T., Sky, etc. who dominate the phone systems where I live, care nothing about individuals and only lining their own pockets. I’m vulnerable, disabled and depend on a land line for my protection but I’ve been disconnected for sometimes up to three weeks on many occasions! There’s been little to no compensation either, – £1 per day for the inconvenience, while someone from the bank, who has shares in B.T. rakes in his millions, at our expense. Having a heart should be the priority but unfortunately it is not synonymous with big business, it appears!

Announcement indicated that Gov’t would setup devices for the selected vulnerable group and show them how to use them – unless that’s going to be handled by volunteers it will prove to be a major part of the cost.

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David says:
15 April 2017

“Someone is making a huge profit out of the suffering of others.”

So, William, what do you think about the arms industry then?

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I have often felt that Which? is distinctly lightweight in this very obvious area of concern. Why it is so lightweight is some what bizarre. Is it because rallying people to a cause is more important than doing a rational piece of research, and/or offering alternative solutions.

Rogue callers is an international problem aswell as an internal one for the UK. Where in this article is a link to research on other countries block, or why in some countries it is not a problem. We are being provided with a sliver of the overall story to elicit reaction.

The one piece of good news was the holding of Directors to account which seems to have been announced and failed to be carried through. Would Which?, in this thread, like to say why this is and what can be done to expedite matters.

One suspects that calls will simply be routed from overseas and this area has been left glaringly untouched. Perhaps somebody could do an article on how mass dialing calls from India reach us without being picked up at some chokepoint or other.

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A lot of nuisance calls aren’t actually from bona-fide scammers (if that’s not an oxymoron!)
but just from humble sales droids, trying to make a deal. (There may however be a bit of grey line between some of the T&Cs and charges under some of those deals and rip off scams that are actually illegal, but that’s another topic…)

In a lot of cases, folk get contacted after they have compromised their phone or email details, e.g. by not checking (or unchecking) the small print somewhere in some other sale or enquiry process. Of course, we should always read the small print, but, in reality, we may be too rushed, too lazy or too tired/stoopid to actually do so…

As I get almost zero nuisance calls, perhaps I should reveal one way of achieving this:

1) I don’t use a landline telephone handset. I only use my landline for broadband. Telesales are most welcome to dial my landline number. It won’t ring, so it won’t disturb me and it definitely won’t be answered.

2) Outside of work, I only use a mobile phone for voice calls and texts. I don’t usually answers calls from numbers that I don’t recognise. For important matters, I expect unknown callers to either leave voicemail or text me, then I can reply.

3) My mobile is normally on silent or vibrate only so it cannot disturb me (or anyone else in the vicinity) by ringing unexpectedly.

4) When I’m on the internet, I steer clear of requests to “register” on websites, unless it is unavoidable.

Such extreme measures as the above may not suit everyone – but they certainly work for me.

Sandi Blackett says:
14 April 2017

This will not help people like me who live in a mobile signal blackspot, although I did actually try this I’ve had more nuisance calls on my mobile number than my landline including while Ive been abroad which if I answer them incurs massive costs to me. so now I’m using BT call guardian but they make me pay for caller display and it wont work without it, maybe the first suggestion is to make caller display FREE when you are using it with a blocking phone!!

I thought I would look at how a few other countries handle nuisance callers. Most of the ones I looked at seem to rely on a TPS type system and be as ineffective as the UK with a couple of exceptions – Canada & Germany although how effective they are is not apparent.

Nuisance calls are a world-wide problem and needs a world-wide solution maybe with sanctions to countries that do not put a stop to their telepests. The odd unscrupulous telecoms company taking advantage of the situation by selling solutions to victims is not a solution.

Canada (Nov 7th 2016)
Telecom companies have 90 days to come up with ‘technical solutions … to block illegitimate nuisance calls within their networks,’ the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said Monday.
And if the CRTC doesn’t like what it hears at the end of that time, there will be consequences, it warned.
“The CRTC is prepared to take further action if telecommunications service providers do not take sufficient measures to protect Canadians against unwanted calls,” the regulator said.


In Germany it is illegal to make a marketing call to a private person without the prior explicit consent of the called person. In other words, this is an “opt-in” regime for all marketing calls.
The Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur, short BNetzA )files and registers every complaint and pursues the leads in order to evaluate if any law has been violated.
Telephone providers are obliged to block phone numbers in cases of regular or serious phone number misuse after issuing a warning.
Recorded Message “Frank geht ran” – The idea behind “Frank geht ran” (“Frank is answering”) is that consumers who are worried that they will get nuisance calls if they state their own phone number when filling out a form can instead fill in a number that belongs to an answering machine (Frank). The machine will then answer unwanted calls with a recorded message saying that the customer does not wish to receive marketing calls.


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It’s interesting to know how other countries are tackling similar problems.

I have never believed that ‘nothing can be done’ about the problem of nuisance calls. I have never understood why marketing calls are allowed unless we opt out of receiving them. Nor do I understand why it is legal to make market research calls, especially since these are often used as a front for marketing and scam calls. We need to put the interests of the citizens of this country ahead of commercial interests.

I don’t think it would be very difficult for a scammer to persuade a vulnerable person with a TrueCall machine that the call is genuine. I hope I am wrong.

Duncan, I don’t doubt technology exists to fight nuisance callers. It just seems the powers that be want them to continue – Which? for charities and market research and I have waited a long time for an answer why they think they are ok, BT so they can sell call blockers that are needed to stop the likes of BT support, etc.

Nuisance calls will never stop until they are all made illegal.

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Nuisance calls are doing no favours for Big Business, so I cannot believe corporate UK is behind any government tolerance of them. Equally I don’t know what is behind it – it just doesn’t make sense. Technologically it must be possible to trap and stop incoming nuisance calls, and some of us have been saying that for years, but for whatever reason the government just seems to dance around the edges of the problem with weak tweaks, puny ‘punishments’, and an “it’s up to you – get a filter-phone” attitude. It really is about time the government pressed Button B and took these numbers out of service wherever they come from.

I don’t suppose they suffer so much in Deutschland as other nationalities struggle with the language. I shall answer the phone in German in future. Ausgezeichnet!

Well I for one am not impressed, I took source over 5k units for the amount they’e wanting to spend on 1500 units. And I’m sure I’d get a discount buying that many.

The thing they really could do it make caller id free and active for all phone users. For too many phone companies have been making money from people trying to identify whose trying to scam them.

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Karen Wallace says:
14 April 2017

Not sure what i think calls should all be blocked maybe the government should have done this before it got out of hand and all that will happen is that they will keep talking and nothing will happen as they are not interested in anyone especially the Ordinary People

Why doesn’t BT simply allow it’s customers to telephone/email a number to it’s database and when a critical trigger is reached, the number is blocked. Of course, BT would keep a record of who telephoned in the offending number just in case of mischievous behaviour. Perhaps if 100 people were to “report” a number, it could be blocked by BT?

I receive, on average, two nuisance calls a day. I have a mobile ‘phone, which I use all the time. I never actually use my landline. The only reason that I have a landline is that my service provider, Virgin Media, insist that if I have Broadband, I must also have a landline. They inform me that if I don’t pay for the telephone I never use, then I would have to pay more for my Broadband connection on its own than I currently pay for the two together! This, of itself, is a blatant example of exploitation which our Government should legislate against at once.
Of course I do get nuisance calls on my mobile, but I can ignore any number I wish to. This is an option which would be available on my landline, but only if I pay Virgin extra(for a service I don’t use!) in order to have caller display. The whole thing is ridiculous!

If you exclusively use your mobile and never give out your landline number, just pull the phone out of its socket leaving only your modem connected!

That works for me 🙂

I use my mobile for most outgoing calls because it is expensive to use the landline to make daytime calls. On the other hand, I far prefer people to call my landline because I have handsets downstairs and upstairs, whereas the one mobile is wherever I last used it or on charge. Relying on a mobile would not suit me.

More often than not, my received cold calls have an Indian/Pakistani voice with the “Hello, my name is Desmond, or David or Adrian…..” I put the ‘phone down immediately, but it is the sheer annoyance of these daily irritations. Then there are the calls with ‘no-one’ at the end other end….. The are all infuriating!

Most companies already offer this as a FREE service where you can personally block any numbers you do not wish to contact you.

TalkTalk does offer this for free, but 10 numbers max.

Chris Ward says:
14 April 2017

The blocking devices/blocking services should do more than block the calls – the call ID should be automatically routed to a central Police server. That server can have very simple software that raises an alert if the same call sender is recorded over a set number of times (1000 or 10,000?). This gives the police the evidence they need to arrest the illegal callers in the UK and refer International scammers to their foreign counterparts. In my experience, most calls are from India and Nigeria, so a joint project with those countries could make a difference.

Let’s have a campaign to make it illegal to make unsolicited calls and have a let’s say I know this is something we haven’t tried before a telecoms body that actually protects consumers as a first step.

There’s only one reason why there are so many scam calls & that is MONEY! I don’t pretend to know the ‘ins’ & ‘outs’ of it but if there wasn’t a profit to be had then there wouldn’t be any calls. How come you can get the exact same pre-recorded message several times a day from completely different numbers? How come when there’s an actual person talking to you, they know your name, address & goodness knows what else about you? Basically they are just a bloody nuisance! Most people I know either let the answer machine take all calls or they just hang up when they realise who is calling but for the elderly & people who may be mentally challenged it must be a complete nightmare if they’re duped into revealing their details. My mother has dementia but luckily lives somewhere that they can’t phone directly & is safe from the scammers. Others are not so lucky.

Shirley says:
14 April 2017

As an octogenarian who has difficulty with most of the technology these days, it would be useful just to have recorded message calls blocked and also those where there is nobody on the line, which would reduce the number of unwanted calls I receive on a daily basis. However, the systems I’m aware of for my BT landline which block these calls also want a list of telephone numbers that are acceptable, which for me, is not something I’m able to do because I’d miss an unexpected call from a friend whose number wasn’t included in my list, as it would probably be blocked. How selective are these systems, and is there one which just blocks those two types of call?

A help to these nuisance callers would be to make the compulsory provision of FREE caller line identification on all phone providers – after all, it costs the provider virtually nothing. Most modern telephones have the CLI receive function by default and it is only profiteering by (in my case) Virgin Media that does not provide it.

Change your phone company! TalkTalk offer it for free and AFAIA BT does also. Not that I fully recommend either company because of other problems (like lousy customer service).

Nigel Freeney says:
14 April 2017

Part of the problem is that it is not possible for the identity of the caller to be traced and therein lies the major issue. It is obviously necessary to allow individuals to be allowed their privacy – so the following idea might need targeting at high call out lines.

If all telephone numbers carried a secondary ID by default and when someone wanted their number to be blocked it would show the ID as their caller ID rather than their number. The secondary ID would stay the same even if the number was changed.

I have had thousands of these annoying calls and even after swearing and calling them lower than a snake,i still get them,i have also tried these so called blockers,and so far have spent too much on them,and still get them everyday more than once,im sick of them,and it seems that nothing can be done,so someone will say have you tried so and so,yep tried everything no one can do a thing.

Libby Earle says:
14 April 2017

Having been plagued by ambulance chasing calls post-RTA, I am keen to see a ban on the withholding and disguising of numbers. Simply blocking “number withheld” calls risks missing bona fide calls from companies which use this technology. I’d also like to see police investigation of leaked personal data. In my case this must have been from one of two sources – a vehicle recovery firm or body shop. All nuisance calls come to my mobile – which was used to communicate regarding the accident – and yet my two passengers have not been troubled. This rather excludes my insurers (who have all contact details) as the source of leaked data . Somewhere there are lucrative illegal databases being maintained, traded and used to inform cold calling. It’s time to catch up with these and crack down; our human right to privacy is failing to be defended.

vince says:
14 April 2017

AT 70 stopping these calls can be difficult I have 2 answers that work. 1. . When you get these calls you say its not me you want its my parents I will get them leaving them hanging on. 2.. Next call…You have been involved in a car accident. stop have a long think then reply yes you are correct but it was fatal and I died. It works Calls reduced by 80%