/ 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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Mark LeBrock says:
14 June 2013

I’m sick of getting calls every day and so is my very elderly aunt who receives at least 2 a day and has now STOPPED answering the phone because of this. Myself, my aunt and my mother are ALL on the TPS. We all receive between 1-5 calls a day. My elderly aunt has stopped answering the phone in the afternoons and evenings now and this causes us concern as were never sure if shes ok. It really is making having a phone a misery. Something has to be done , i cannot believe the government allows this to continue.

Russell says:
14 June 2013

I get an average of 3 a day, despite being TPS registered. I’ve stopped being even vaguely polite. Normasl line is “why are you ringing this number? I don’t accept calls of this nature. Don;t ring again”. If I am calmer, I’ll keep answering every question in the wrong way, which can be amusing.
These calls really must stop.

We were troubled daily, several times a day, for months by scam advertisers, mainly from the Manchester area. Trading Standards suggested a TRUE CALL BOX for the phone, its marvelous, we can zap anyone we don’t wish to speak to or let True Call take the call for us.

McTavish says:
14 June 2013

True Call is an option, but it costs nearly £97! I feel very strongly that if individuals subscribe to the TPS, then this is proof that subscribers do not want to receive any telemarketing or ‘survey’ calls at all. The telephone service provider should then be required to take full responsibility for blocking any such incoming calls. I would be happy to pay a small annual charge for this, say £10.

Fiona Graham says:
14 June 2013

I have a son who is a brilliant comic and can put on a pretty good Indian accent. We went through a stage of receiving up to 10 calls a day from a Telecoms Company, who just wouldn’t take no for an answer and, as soon as you hung up, they called straight back.

We turned the tables on them when my son took the phone and delightedly informed them that they were our 50th caller of the day and had won a ’50 inch telly from Delhi’, which was on it’s way to their house. He kept talking over them without taking a breath (just as they did to us), saying things like, ‘oh lucky, lucky you, you win 50 inch telly from Delhi, you so very lucky, congratulations, BIG 50 inch telly from Delhi, etc. !

Our whole family then realised where the saying ‘ROFL – rolling on the floor laughing’ came from, as we literally were ! It did the trick, though, as the guy on the other end eventually hung up and only rang back once more, when my son launched into his speech again and the bewildered man on the other end was heard saying, “See, I told you, there’s a mad person in that house and there’s no point keep ringing, because he just keeps telling me I’ve won a 50″ telly” !!!!!! Strangely enough, they no longer appeared to want our custom and have never called since !!!!

My other favourites are, if they’re selling home improvements, “Sorry, we live in a Council House” and for utilities and services, such as Broadband, “Sorry, we live in rented accommodation and it’s against our Tenancy Agreement”. It works every time, because no sales person is going to waste their time with someone who can’t buy their product or service, no matter how often they try !!

arry says:
14 June 2013

It usually go’s like this: Ring ring ring ring. ‘CanI speak a miser ——–.
Reply. Who are you?
‘CanI speak a miser ——–
Reply. Who are you?
I am to axs yue for a some things for your computer.
Reply. What computer?
The above computer question is then repeated about three or four times and after that I suddenly break into realisation.
Reply; Ohhhh! you mean my calculater no no I never have trouble with that I saw a cat in the garden this morning but I only had toast for breakfast it gets cold here in the winter I think I get some new shoes next year before the summer do you have some new shoes.

Guess what? Yes, they hang up on me.


Unfortunately I cannot hang up on “International” because I have many overseas relatives. Instead I imitate the stilted tone of a pre-recorded message and say (slowly and deliberately): “Hello. You have reached the phone of M*** and R*** E******. If you are a nuisance caller please hang up now. If you are a real person please leave a message after the tone….. ” If they haven’t hung up by that time, I talk to them. My relatives have been quite impressed the first time they heard that.

Jane says:
14 June 2013

Hubby received a call from a microsoft scammer and eventually managed to say (truthfully) that he did not have a computer. Caller said ‘my god, f… off’ and put the phone down!
I either pick phone up and put it by the radio, usually on Radio 2 and walk off, or repeat in a distracted voice ‘when are you delivering my shopping, I can’t hear them Bert/Fred/Sid etc until they get fed up and put the phone down. Or they do not seem to appreciate my saying ‘It’s them again and I can’t hear them’ over and over until I get bored or they give up!! Depends on how much time I am prepared to waste winding them up. I never answer any of their questions sensibly.

What I would REALLY like to know is why surveys are excluded from the TPS’s remit? What is the logical reason for distinguishing between sales calls and surveys when it comes to opting out of calls – they are both equally annoying. You should at least have the option of opting out of both surveys and sales calls, or you could opt out of sales calls but not surveys, or opt out of surveys but not sales calls? Why is this not possible?

The TPS is paid for by the companies that make sales calls. It is currently legal to make market research calls and TPS has no involvement whatsoever.

We need every kind of unsolicited call banned, or only permitted if a person has agreed to opt-in. I would be happy to take part in discussions about consumer rights and a few companies that sell specialist products that interest me, but absolutely no-one else.

Ron Bates says:
15 June 2013

If my wife is out when I get one of these calls. I give them a blast from my fire sevice whistle.I might not stop these calls but it makes me feel better.

Ray Allen says:
15 June 2013

When I receive a nuisance call, I simply ask them “did I ask you to call me?” It seems to flummox them – which is quite amusing! I then simply put the phone down. Seems to work.

I donate regularly to about four different charities, but in addition I often make one off donations to charities like save the children, if they rock my conscience with their TV ads. My last donation was by text and since then I have had several calls from them to my mobile. I didn’t bother answering the first few calls, when I answered a later call, I listened to the spiel on their gratitude for my donation and then asked the caller in a very annoyed voice “why are you calling me” and hung up. No calls in the past week. This conduct has put me off this easy way of donating.

Many charities contact out their fund raising to commercial companies whose agents work on commission and whose techniques are far from ethical.

It would help if the caller ID showed which country code was calling instead of just “international”

anthony says:
15 June 2013

I have tried a number of suggested ways of dealing with cold callers but I have found recently that an effective way is simply to ask, ‘are you a cold-caller’, to anyone who asks to speak to me. This seems to put them right off, and allows me to hang up on them, guilt-free, whether they say yes, no, or simply launch into their spiel regardless. It also gives an opportunity to callers who I have had legitimate dealings with, such as charities etc, to say who they are and why they are calling. So far, this method has worked every time without me getting stressed the way I used to.

David says:
16 June 2013

I have Caller ID so I can ignore the call if a name doesn’t come up. If it is someone that I know or legitimate the person will leave a message. I did receive a call without a number last week, it came up as ‘out of area’ so i picked up and adpted the persistent ‘hello’ and the person gave up.
I only very occasionally receive unsolicited calls, I am ex directory and TPS and believe it does work. Maybe those who persistently receive calls are giving their number out when buying on-line, I never do and I also use a seperate web email address too. There are some great tips and I am tempted to pick up on my next call just for amusement. Thank you to all.

I have purchased from on-line Internet sites which do not permit the transaction to proceed unless a mandatory field for the customers home phone number is completed. It is possible that your number is then sold-on.

I too came across that but managed to key in a fictitious number I think it was an 0845 one

Irritated says:
16 June 2013

I once managed to irritate a caller from India so much that he rang off. I had the temerity to argue with him, poor delicate soul! I recently had a call from someone who said I had indicated I was willing to accept calls because I had ticked a box when buying from the internet. Despite having TPS I still get calls, I don’t pick up if it is international or number withheld, perhaps I should use the pick up and wander off.

Roger says:
17 June 2013

Apart from the withheld calls, which I never answer. I have noticed that the automated dialing machines in call centres almost all allow 6 rings then hang up, and obviously dial the next number. Just tell family and friends to let the phone ring a little longer.
This simple procedure has cut down on the number of calls from 3 per day to almost none.

Pete says:
17 June 2013

I got the ‘Microsoft’ call saying that there was something wrong with my PC. I pretended to be a non-savvy elderly gentleman that wasn’t well up on computers. I had time to spare, so I kept him on the line for 45-mins! When he asked what my window was showing, I told him that it said Pilkington in the bottom right-hand corner!! For those that don’t know, they make glass for double glazing! Took great delight after 45-mins in saying that I knew it was a scam and asking him what it felt like to have wasted his time. He swore and hung up. Funny, but since then I didn’t get many calls!! Worked for me.

Paul says:
19 June 2013

I don’t even bother to answer the phone anymore! If they need me they’ll leave a message, and if it’s someone I need to talk to I pick up and apologise for the delay.
I got the ‘Microsoft’ scam once but mistakenly let on too soon that as I work in IT I know they are talking crap!
Also listen to silent calls, when you pick up and say hello, if there is a pause they are routing you to an available handler, hang up at that point!

John says:
20 June 2013

Frequently I get microsoft scammers. What I do is thank them for spotting my computer problems and let them know i would love them to fix it. I inform them I am following their instructions (without actually being at my computer) to the point where they say “click Start, in the Run dialogue box type xyz and what do you see”. At this point I inform them I see a scamming b****** who are preying on innocent people and trying to rip them off. The phone is put down immediately!