/ Technology

How do you handle nuisance callers?

Cartoon of girl on phone

Since we launched our campaign, Calling Time on Nuisance Calls and Texts, thousands of you have shared your frustrations. And I’ve noticed that many of you adopt various strategies to cope with unwanted calls…

You may recall that we set the relevant regulators a challenge to prove to us that they’re taking action by June. In the meantime, I’ve been reading through your comments, many of which reveal numerous tactics to deal with nuisance calls and texts.

Signing up to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is one step you can take, but as many of you have told us, you’re still getting unwanted sales and marketing calls.

Brian is supposedly TPS protected, but he’s had to resort to using Pawley’s Peepholes as inspiration. In this short story by John Wyndham, a community battles time-travelling tourists with rude gestures. I’ll say no more. Some of you take to shouting, but I think Linda makes a good point when she says ‘screaming at a recorded message only hurts my throat, not the wretched company making the calls’. But some of you have adopted other tactics…

Tactic one: the pick up

Those who do pick up the phone are often happy to answer and even agree ‘it’s good to talk’. But, unwanted sales staff beware, many of our commenters have a trick up their sleeve.

When a scam caller claiming to be a ‘Microsoft engineer’ asked Mike whether he had a PC, he said he had two – one male and one female. Mike also told the bemused ‘engineer’ that he was hopeful a third PC would be on the way soon!

Bill’s wife told a double-glazing firm that they lived in a tent. The sales man actually called back after realising that tents don’t have landlines…

Tactic two: the put down

This seems to be one of the most popular coping tactics. Many of you just don’t answer and let calls go to voicemail, like Vince who doesn’t answer the phone before 8pm on weekdays.

Commenters Lynne and Les all put down as soon as they know it’s an unwanted call. They’ll even ask the unwanted sales caller to ‘hold the line please’, leave the phone off the hook and walk away. Les feels he’s helping out others, as he’s delaying a nuisance call to the next person on the list. Thanks Les!

Tactic three: the delegator

This is me. What better way to deal with a nuisance than deploying another ‘nuisance’. And many parents believe they have just the candidate…. My son hangs up in seconds if he suspects that it’s a silent call (apologies to the grandparents!). WB’s son likes to mimic accents and WB is happy to let him practise his ‘skills’ on unwanted callers.

Paul also lets his son answer. His son is fluent in Manx Gaelic and Paul can confirm that many sales staff are not. And finally Michael told us that he lets his son deal with unwanted nuisance calls. His son is two years old.

Of course, we don’t think you should have to adopt these tactics when the phone rings, which is why we’ve launched our Calling Time on Nuisance Calls and Texts campaign. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t share your tactics to deal with nuisance callers.

Are you fed up with nuisance calls and texts?

Yes (100%, 30,130 Votes)

No (0%, 91 Votes)

Total Voters: 30,221

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Michael Morris says:
1 May 2013

I have a simple method of dealing with unwanted calls. My phone is cordless, so I tend to keep it in my pocket. I also have caller ID. When a call comes in, if the caller is in my phone book then the name and number is shown on the handset. If the number is not in my phone book then I ignore it. If it’s someone who really does want to speak to me they will leave a message on the answering machine. Simple.
Mike Morris

Michael, I do exactly the same as you and I have not accepted a nuisance call in about two years. By talking to these people you are confirming that you will answer and take their calls. If they keep getting voicemail or an answer phone they will soon move on to another victim.

The next best solution is to stay silent or another member passes her phone to her toddler who talks gibberish for ages and confuses the caller.

Karen says:
11 May 2013

I do exactly the same. However, I also make a note of the numbers that have called me (assuming they haven’t been withheld) and do a reverse lookup on the internet to see who they were. I then add their name and number to my contacts so that when they ring again caller display tells me which spammer they are. I believe that if the call is really important then the caller will leave a message on my voicemail.

Almost all cold callers use withheld numbers or call from abroad no I see no caller ID. However some legitimate organisations also withhold their number. Therefore it is not safe to ignore all these calls because I find many people do not leave a message. It would be so much simpler if all organisations had to display a caller ID, then we’d know which calls to answer all the time.

There are perfectly legitimate reasons for withholding a number. I’m available 24/7 on two published numbers, but the line I use for outgoing calls has CLI suppressed, in order that I can have a line available to make outgoing calls.

I used to ask questions to get the caller’s identity and then report them to the TPS, but I don’t bother any more as no action is ever taken. I also used to wind up the Indian fake Microsoft employees who want to get into my PC; once I kept them on hold for 90 minutes just to waste their time.

I then started swearing as rudely as possible at these nuisance callers. My rudeness varies depending on the type of caller, the least rude towards those claiming to be doing market research and the rudest to the Indian fake Microsoft employees. After I started doing this, I noticed a sudden drop in these calls. I assume that the nuisance callers have put me on to their blacklist!

I don’t know why people bother with the Telephone Preference Service any more. Just another useless QUANGO.

Sophie Gilbert says:
2 May 2013

It isn’t too difficult to recognise a nuisance caller instantly, so if they ask for me, I sometimes ask them to hold on to “see if she’s there”, call out my own name and then put the phone to the side. Eventually they hang up, but I’m not there to hear after how long.

One of the ways a nuisance caller can be recognised is that there is sometimes a time delay between your picking up the phone and the call being connected, and then you briefly hear the sounds of a call centre in the background, so you know a machine has dialled phone numbers at random and arrived at yours. I just put the phone down immediately.

Sometimes I say “hullo? I can’t hear you, hullo? hullo? please try again” and put the phone down. It all depends on the mood.

I’ve never sworn at anyone yet, but indeed I love the idea of being blacklisted, so I may give it a shot. I won’t target any specific nuisance demographic though, they’ll all get it.

I’m registered with TPS but it doesn’t stop all the calls. It seems surveys don’t count, but I learnt all about why they do so many surveys. If you complete a survey on the phone you are apparently giving permission to receive sales calls. This is how UK based companies get around the TPS regulations.

So my standard reply to these calls is “sorry don’t do surveys because they lead to unwanted nuisance calls like this one” “click”

Call centres in India are not bound by TPS rules. The way these calls usually go is they start by asking for someone by name, usually badly mispronounced, “are you the homeowner” or “do you have a computer” “click”

Sometimes I take them on just for fun with the object being to give away no information but to question to a stage whereby they hang up on me. I figure while I’m taking the proverbial they are not annoying someone else.

But despite everyone complaining about nuisance calls companies still do it, they still run call centres, so there must still be enough mugs out there who actually get scammed or buy stuff from them. Perhaps only one in a thousand but perhaps that’s still enough to justify the operation.

Could it be the solution is in our own hands?
Perhaps a “which” campaign advising everyone not to buy anything, at all, ever, over the phone no matter what, unless you made the call.
I’ve already started.

If its the computer scam one, I politely inform them that I’ll listen to their claims, as long as they don’t lie. And after their opening line , which is a lie, “you computer has been sending out the informations”, I’ll interrupt them, say that’s a lie, please don’t lie again. The next sentence is invariably another lie as they have very similar scripts, I’ll interrupt them again, at which point they hang up.

They ask for Mr. Jones – I tell them to hold on I will get him.

I hang up 5 minutes later having wasted 5 minutes of their time.

Kimhaz says:
2 May 2013

I invariably get calls for one of the previous occupants because I have TPS, despite them having left here 8yrs ago on Saturday. I used to tell the caller the person they asked for had left & to remove the no from their database. Now I have much more fun. I wait for them to speak before telling them “You have reached the Karma Sutra Fantasy Sex Chat Line. Calls to this line will cost £5.50/min, or part thereof, from a landline and £10.50/min, or part thereof, from a mobile. Now how can I help you, you naughty boy/girl?” The calls don’t tend to last too long after that.

I mostly just get nuisance calls at work. They seem to be from different companies, though they all ask for the same person (who doesn’t work here). For a long time I tried talking to them and explaining that he doesn’t exist and they told me several times that they would “update their database”. However, they kept calling and then I started asking them out about who they were and what they wanted to talk about exactly. They responded in various, inconsistent ways, but it didn’t really get me anywhere… now I’ve tired of them, and I just hang up as soon as they’ve spoken… seems that this has been more efficient, and they haven’t called for a while (almost as if they score someone talking back at them higher than someone just hanging up, regardless of what you say :P).

I recently had the faulty computer scam and as I had some time on my hands I pretended to go to my computer & try to go through all of his instructions asking him to repeat every sentence. I kept him on the line for nearly 10 minutes before he twigged what I was up to.
I must admit I quite enjoyed it.

Laura says:
2 May 2013

My 4 year old twins love answering the phone. Anyone who rings regularly knows the routine: “Hello, hello?” “Let me talk too, hello, hello?” “My turn again now, hello, hello?” Cold callers etc tend to get a bit flummoxed and give up!

My mum frequently just says she married a millionaire and why would she need a loan, or worry about a couple of thousands.

Sadly for her kids, she didn’t.

Graham Slater says:
2 May 2013

I pretend to be hard of hearing, it can be entertaining listening to the nuisance caller shouting louder and louder every time I ask them to repeat themselves.
I repeatedly asked one of the “Microsoft engineers” if he was saying he was the window cleaner because I was sure I’d paid him yesterday.

Laurasplog says:
2 May 2013

I had an Indian call centre worker ask me if I had a laptop. Thinking he was trying to sell me software, I said no.

He said, “Well, I’m very pleased to give you this offer of a laptop then.”

“No thank you,” I said.

“But it is a free laptop. Why wouldn’t you want a free laptop?”

I panicked. “I’m blind,” I lied.

“Oh. I am sorry to hear you are blind. Goodbye madam.”

Still my favourite conversation to date.

Steve Morgan says:
13 June 2013

You so should have said it was because you were deaf and see if he twigged.

Al says:
2 May 2013

I recently had an Indian call centre call trying to sell me replacement windows at a knockdown price – I stopped the gentlemans pitch by saying “I’m sorry but the house that I live in is actually an underground Eco bunker and so has no windows or doors” – he hung up quite abruptly.

D64 says:
2 May 2013

Sometimes I just hang up. Or wait til they tell me to type things into the computer and then I tell them it’s a mac or an etch-a-sketch, but I cant tell the difference, they’re both for my dog anyway. Occasionally I tell them that I’m soooo glad they’ve called as it’s been a bit lonely since squiggles passed on and I really fancied a nice chat, and luckily I’d just made a cup of tea and I’ve got my lunch and a crossword in front of me then I ask them for some help with the clues (1 down, three letters, not a dog, rhymes with hat, first letter ‘C’ – you get the drift).

I find foul abusive even racist language works very well at getting rid of them.
The only chance we get to be “justifiably” really non-PC nowadays. Afterall nuisance callers bring it upon themselves in my book and are very unlikely to have any complaint upheld against us the real victims.
So next cold call you get go for a bit of non-PC escapism and really let rip, it has a really empowering feel to it, sets you up for the rest of the day.

Be sure it’s a nuisance call first though and not the vicar trying to drum up support for some charitable cause.

Alan G says:
3 May 2013

As someone wjo used to design call centres I’m fairly sympathetic to the foplks who work in them. As a result I used to patiently answer the questions in their ‘surveys’. However as the number of calls has now risen to double figures per day I now just say ‘no’ when they ask if its ok to proceed and then thank them for calling and hang up. It saves their time and mine!

On the other hand I love the “Microsoft Tech support” guys. As an ex IT consultant I love to interrogate them on which of my 5 computers(its true!) the problem is on, what the network address of the offending messages is, get them to wait while I check my network logs (it’d be true if they ever can tell me!). And finally, if they are still there, ask why Microsoft are interested since none of my computers run Windows(also true – Linux and Mac!). So far I’ve only got one caller who stuck with me to the last point before hanging up.

eddie phillips says:
3 May 2013

i say mmmm you sound nice what you doing tonight, fancy going for a drink somewhere, man or woman, the phone soon goes dead.

Peter K says:
3 May 2013

Landline – thankfully I don’t need one so have got rid of it, but appreciate that is not a solution for others. But this cause other problems as most bank / utility accounts & other ID needs require a landline number on your account info.

While I’ve not used one, if they do as advertised, the BT 6500 or TrueCall call filters might help some people, but why should we pay extra for call filtering – given the size of the problem, surely the phone company should now provide this as part of the service anyway? I think others are making call filters & this is creating a new market to drain our wallets!

Mobile: I have an android mobile & use the Extreme Caller filter app (there are others). I have it set to accept only numbers in my phonebook, all others go to answerphone. Real nuisance callers (PPI, accident claim) I block completely. All blocking & filtering is silent – also works for texts. It works well. I’m not aware of any similar UK app option for iOS or other operating systems.

I also use the SMS+ app which saves all my txts & call log to gmail so that I can keep a record of these calls and adjust the filtering if req’d.