/ 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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Kenny says:
20 June 2013

………….best one I’ve used when being offered various refunds from TPS due to failure in stopping calls (refund on a poor FREE service???). When asked for bank details offer name of bank , (need cards and note paper) but they will wait for you to get same from wallet/purse you’re now a possible scam target! When asked for 16 dig no. write it down and then quote it to them changing and noting several digits.Give wrong start and expiry dates as well Of course this fails and they respond that if you do not give correct details you will forfeit refund, you bluster that it’s your money so lets check details, quote no. again and point out one digit change , still fails, check bank name it’s not BOS it’s RBS, still fails, check no. again changing another digit (bad line excuse). OK it’s now time to discuss star and expiry dates amazing how many possible mistakes there, the above was interjected with several “sorry could you repeat that” This has taken poss. 20+ mins and they’re getting fed up but have hung on because you’d taken the bait. Now’s the time to explain that you’re not with the party offering the refund but you’re all on your own and don’t get many calls so thanks fot their call!

titch says:
20 June 2013

when my other half received a sales call from an indian call centre his conversation was quick and to the point.

In a rather angry dramatic rapid manner, it goes like this………

Where did you get this number, stay on the line, we are tracking your location now, this is a breach of national security……..

He rarely finishes the speech as the callers panic and hang up!

craggy says:
20 June 2013

I have noticed that nuisance calls have trebled in the past 2 months with sometimes receiving 4 phone calls a day covering PPI, Sky Insurance and recently even from charities….animal, cancer, red cross etc…..where do they get my number from?? However, have come up with a solution which works for me …………phone rings, I answer and my conversation goes like this….hello, hello, hello, hello is anyone there and click, the phone goes down the other end. Maybe it will work for you.

Angela says:
21 June 2013

I have had 6 today alone. I tell them we are moving house, leaving the country etc and I have been known to just pick it up and leave it and not speak.

Anthony Tallack says:
22 June 2013

We have a second home in France where nuiscance calls are much more of a problem than here. We claim not to speak French and insist on the caller speaking English: works every time unless the caller does speak English.

Recently we have adopted a similar tactic here by claiming to only speak French: even more effective here given poor foreign languge skills of the English!

Très bonne idée. Je l’essayerai la prochaine fois 🙂

Je suis d’accord avec toi mais je utilise Bulgare et Estonien. Ma belle-fille est bulgare et
mon plus jeune fils travaille en Estonie. Il n’ya que 1.3 million personnes qui habitent en Estonie, donc les appelants ne connaissent pas leur langue!

JON says:
22 June 2013

I have a children’s toy that at a press of a button give out messages from Captain Kirk on the Enterprise.
There are several messages such as the BEAM ME UP SCOTTY ! which are useful during a conversation …………..with due apologies for the crossed line.

Do give thought however to the people out there who are trying to earn an honest crust !.

Kenny says:
23 June 2013

as soon as they mention bank details or money they are not in the business of “earning an honest crust”

The solution is very simple – just don’t answer the phone and save yourself a lot of stress! In our household if the number is withheld or we don’t recognise it we don’t pick the phone up. We figure that if the call is genuine the person will leave a message and we can call them back. I suspect that cold callers may somehow record the fact that a phone has been answered thereby triggering more calls.

Our number has always been ex-directory as we can’t see the point of it being in the phone book. Our friends have all our contact details anyway – landline, mobiles, email addresses etc – so there’s no advantage to us in making our phone number publicly available.

We are also registered with the TPS and we only ever give our number out to people or companies that we trust. When shopping online if the website demands a phone number I will often give a false one unless I completely trust the company.

As a result of all this we get very few unsolicited calls – maybe one or two a month (which as I said we don’t actaually answer) – so it seems to work! Hope this helps someone!

PatB says:
23 June 2013

I have a field day with the ‘PPI merchants’. The minute The say they can get me money I start to badger them about my money they know I am am owed – how much and when will they send it to me – it usually ends up with me accusing them of stealing my money that they know I am entitled to. I then phone the number back (using un used mobile minutes) and get their supervisor and tell them that they owe me money and where is it – My best so far is 41 minutes that I have managed to screw them around demanding my money that they say I am entitled to. 😛

Rob Wilson says:
24 June 2013

I sometimes tell the pests “I don’t speak English I’m Welsh”
another answer is “I’m a burglar, please don’t tell the police”, seems to baffle the cretins.

Luis says:
26 June 2013

I started to receive unwanted calls from The Money Group a few months ago. At the beginning was once a week but the it turn to nearly daily calls. I realized the firm was calling from a land line in my own area so my tactic was to use my unlimited calls on my land line and call them back every 5 minutes and ask them if they were The Money Group to then tell them I didn’t need their services and hung up. I also got friends and colleagues to do the same. That annoyed them big time;) Since then I got a new mobile phone in which I can actually block numbers. Their calls do register as missed calls as it goes straight into answerphone service but my phone doesn’t ring. I do work nights so receiving these calls in the middle of the day is really annoying. I have asked them to delete my details from their records but to no avail. No I can put my phone into block mode and and will only receive calls from my selected contact numbers. Isn’t that great?

Elizabeth says:
27 June 2013

I wish I had had the opportunity to see and/or speak to someone re:nuisance calls.The reason[s] for this is twofold. I say this because when I became Communications Supervisor of a large Company I found a few “tricks” that could be done within my home.

The one that really gets to me is the “WITHELD”# so when this shows up I pick up phone and say quote: I dont speak to people who withold their # unquote. If they really want to speak to me
they ALWAYS REDIAL. Just to let you know approx 2 weeks ago I received a witheld call from the Police, I said the above and they redialed WITH a number.Nothing was said to me about my
comment. so its NOT illegal to do this and of course I had no idea that it was the Police calling.

Now the next thing that also annoys me is when people wont take “no” for an answer, or its a recording of some thing. This recording nearly always says they are not selling anything so please listen, So I listen and “yep” they ARE selling, so I do just one thing and believe me they
NEVER EVER call back and I say this with 100% success. When they call me I just don’t replace my receiver until I am good and ready and as they called me they are paying for the call and I hold the call for hours hence it becomes VERY VERY expensive for them and they NEVER redial

“…so its NOT illegal to do this…”

I’m not sure why anyone would think it would it be illegal?

What surprises me when reading all the posts on forums devoted to nuisance calls is that people seem to feel compelled to answer the phone when it rings. What’s wrong with simply not picking it up? If the call is really important the caller will leave a message.

It’s my phone and I’m in charge of it!

RichardE says:
1 July 2013

tintin99 – Agreed, no one HAS to answer the phone. However, I am self-employed from home, and telephone enquiries are my main source of clients. So I can get unknown callers in the day or evening, and occasionally at weekends, which I cannot ignore.

Hi Richard. Yes I understand the problem – I’m self-employed too but have a separate business line so that helps.

On the home phone though if we don’t recognise the number, most of the tiime we don’t answer it. If the call is genuine people leave a message.

I often Google an unknown number and that usually helps to work out who called.

Well, this is just my strategy for dealing with nuisance calls and not allowing them to affect my stress levels!

RichardC says:
21 October 2013

I also work from home and can’t always answer the phone (perhaps with a client or working out). Other clients and genuine callers understand this and will leave a message.
Even the occasional new client (most are by recommendation) will usually leave a message and a
return number. Perhaps I miss the odd one, but usually these will be people who are just phoning round every professional in the relevant yellow pages only to get the cheapest quote…not always the best kind of client to work with!

peter says:
24 July 2013

I have received 12 calls in a day. All calling about a survey .The numbers are digits long. I am now getting calls about money matters from the same numbers.I ask for their name and address. THis takes time. Addresses vary from London To Bombay. post codes seem to fool them.
After more questions they give up. But they always come back. I have tried leaving the phone off the hook , but it does not seem to work.

Hi Peter, I don’t quite understand why you answer the phone in the first place if it’s a number you don’t recognise – or if it’s a long number that you suspect is a nuisance call? If you keep picking up I expect they will keep pestering you.

I suspect for many of us it’s an automatic reaction: the phone rings so we answer it; but we don’t have to.

peter says:
25 July 2013

I have time to answer the phone and it costs them money to answer my. queries. I had one today with number with held , it turned out to be the local surgery !

Kenny says:
24 July 2013

….arrived home yestrday to find wife handling a call from “microsoft” received whilst setting up her new laptop (they couln’t have timed it better for their purposes) said she was too busy just now. Of course they called back (David) from afar. I took the call and after listening to and encouraging the spiel I confused David by asking which computer was causing the problem ,the PC on XP, my laptop on Vista or my wifes new laptop on Windows 8 , go forth and multiply David!

DAvid Stone says:
25 July 2013

I liked the person who was called by an Indian sounding gentleman and asked if he was calling from the UK. Yes, Manchester was the answer. What is the weather like, was the next question. Lovely and sunny came the reply. Well, the conversation continued, I am also in Manchester and it is pouring with rain. Phone call terminated.

Hello everyone, thanks for all your comments. We’ve just launched a complaints tool which will talk you through the process of making an official complaint about nuisance calls and texts, pointing you towards the right regulator.

If more of us complain, not only will the regulators have the information they need to take action, it will send a clear message that more needs to be done to stop this menace. Give it a go: http://www.which.co.uk/campaigns/nuisance-calls-and-texts/

You can also join our latest debate about nuisance calls and find out how the government is actually starting to listen to our calls, and may soon change the rules, here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/complain-nuisance-calls-texts-complaints-ofcom-ico-tps/

Not something that I’d ever do BUT I’ve heard that blowing a referee’s whistle down the ‘phone can cause the other party to disconnect!

MonkeyBot 5000 says:
26 July 2013

I got tired of the recorded message so I started pressing the button to speak to one of their operators and then just walking away so that I’d waste their time

I got bored of that and then decided to tell them that I was interested and I’d like them to send me some forms to fill in. That not only costs them the effort and postage to send them out, but it also means that you get taken off their robocall list and they have real people call you to see if you’ve filled them in yet, which costs them even more money.

I strung them along for two months like that until I told them I couldn’t be bothered to fill them out. The girl on the other end of the line then says that she needs to confirm some of my personal details to remove me from the system so I refused to give them and said it was her problem and not mine.

My aim is to cost them so much time and money that they decide to blacklist me and stop calling.

Rita says:
31 July 2013

When receiving a nuisance call I ask why, in detail, I am being called. How do they know I have PPI or computer problems? They usually hang up. If not I ask how they obtained my telephone number. Answer “telephone directory” I am ex directory. One said it was an international directory. By this time the line has usually gone dead. If not I ask for a name and contact number before I can discuss anything further. So far this has ended the conversation. Of course this takes my time but if I have five minutes to spare I think it is worth wasting their time. Whe n I do not have the time I say “sorry not interested” and hang up. It may be a coincidence but recently I have received fewer nuisance calls.

Some good news for you. After calling on the government to strengthen the law on nuisance calls and texts, it has announced plans to clamp down on this menace. The government plans to:

• Make it easier for Ofcom and the ICO to share data about nuisance calling companies.
• Lower the threshold for the ICO to take enforcement action, meaning it won’t have to prove distress or substantial harm before fining rule breakers.

The ICO has also announced a joint action plan with Ofcom, answering our calls for the regulators to work closer together against nuisance calls and texts. Thanks to all of you for increasing the pressure!

Trying a new tactic…
When the recorded message says, “If you are interested press button 2”: I press it.
Ok, this means I get one more call but it means this lot will definitely not phone me again (after the discussion which ensues).
If we all did this all of the time, just think how unattractive the whole business would become to the cold callers.
I haven’t actually got the length of making someone turn up at my door to follow through on my “interest”, but I am probably heading for that fairly soon.