At best an invasive annoyance, at worst intimidating and threatening. Unwanted sales and marketing ‘cold’ calls can be enough to drive anyone to despair.
The other day, I was just settling down to my dinner and my landline rang. It was a recorded message from a ‘government organisation’ telling me the great news that they could clear all my debt within a year.
Fantastic! Apart from the fact that: 1) Other than my mortgage (and the occasional use of my overdraft), I’m in the fortunate position of having no debt; and 2) There was a high chance I had just been targeted by one of a number of cold call scams doing the rounds, which prey on peoples’ insecurities in a bid to con them out of their hard-earned cash.
Needless to say, I hung up.
Big household names among most frequent cold callers
It’s not just scammers that interrupt our daily lives at inconvenient times, though – big businesses use it as a marketing tactic too. According to a two-week diary kept by 737 Which? members, British Gas, BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Homeserve, EDF and Eon were among companies calling most often.
I should add that by ‘cold calling’ I include sales and marketing calls from companies I’m already a customer of, which might partially explain why companies with a big customer base are often the biggest ‘cold-callers’.
75% want cold calls banned
So are cold calls becoming the nation’s worst nightmare? They’re certainly among the most common – our recent investigation showed two thirds of you are likely to have received at least one cold call recently.
We asked more than 2,000 people about their recent cold call experiences, and found they’d received an average of six to seven calls a month. What’s more, one in four people have felt intimated by cold calls, and one in five has felt pressured by a cold-caller to buy something.
Clearly, some people buy products or services off the back of a cold call, otherwise why would companies bother? But they must be in a small minority. These stats reflect badly on many companies responsible for cold calling, especially since there are rules in place to prevent unfair or aggressive sales tactics.
How to cut cold calls
I’m registered with the Telephone Preference Service for both my mobile and landline, which automatically opts me out of many companies calling me for sales and marketing.
There are other things you can do to avoid cold calling too. I avoid giving my number out where possible, and always ask not to be added to sales and marketing lists. If you ask a company not to call you for sales and marketing purposes, they’re not allowed to do so – even if you’re already a customer.
My evasive manoeuvres seem to have done the trick with many cold calls, as I don’t remember the last time I received a cold-call that I couldn’t identify as a likely criminal scam.
Sadly, it’s unlikely that criminals will ever respect cold calling regulation so I can look forward to the odd scam-call for the foreseeable future – my best hope is to be out when they call.