Telecoms > Guides

How to stop cold calls

Fred Isaac

Fred Isaac
Jul 27, 2016

8 billion cold calls are made in the UK every year, according to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

That’s an average of 125 calls for every single person in the country.

In a major clampdown in April, the law was tightened to remove the burden of proof that the ICO had to show distress. 

But the law seems ineffective as 81% of us still report receiving cold calls despite the change.

Despite the ICO now being able to impose fines of up to £500,00, the BBC reported in October that 7 out of 10 mobile users were still receiving cold calls.

Most of you will have rushed to the phone, only to find it’s not your auntie Mildred but a window salesman looking to flog double glazing or a robot asking if you've been missold PPI.

So are there measures you can take to beat the callers?

We did some digging and here’s what we found out:   


What to say to say to a cold caller

If you’re feeling brave, talk back to the voice on the other end of the line.

Score a little victory for under-fire customers by leading a cold caller down the garden path.

Each minute you take up of his day is a minute he can’t be calling someone else.

You could try being as enthusiastic as the caller, and asking for their home phone number.

Our bet is they won’t like it and will leave you well alone.

Or threaten them with legislation – quote the 1998 Data Protection Act at them and listen as they squirm.

If you ask, they’re legally obliged to tell you which company they are calling from. You can then ring up the company and tell them you don’t want to receive sales calls.


What not to say to a cold caller

If you do talk to the caller, be very careful what information you share with them.

My grandfather, for example, answers every call by stating his phone number. This is not advised.

You should never:

* Pass on any personal details (bank account numbers for example) – even when the caller claims to be from a company you know or use.
* Press any buttons during a cold call – this could be a con to redirect you to a premium rate number.
* Call back phone numbers left on your answer machine.


The Telephone Preference Service

The biggest protection against cold callers is the Telephone Preference Service.

It’s a free service that allows you to opt out of receiving telemarketing sales calls.

Register your number with them and you’re put on a list of people UK companies cannot make sales calls to.

Give the TPS a ring on 0345 070 0707 or register your number online.

Whilst it’s effective, the TPS is NOT a magic bullet and won’t prevent every cold call.

Overseas companies, automated messages, silent calls and market research will all still be able to get through.

It also can’t stop calls from firms you have already given permission to contact you.

You might not even remember giving your consent – it can be as innocuous as ticking a Ts&Cs box online.

Top Tip:  By ticking a box saying you agree to be contacted by a company, you may also agree to contact from “trusted third parties” – this means firms who are not the company you dealt with can also contact you.

And be warned: cold callers are cunning and we’ve heard reports of some even pretending to be from the TPS.

Royston Sugden told us how he has been barraged with calls from a number claiming to be the TPS.

Just as Royston did, we urge you NOT to give them any bank details, and contact the official TPS on the number above.

What about smartphones?

A Which? survey found that just 3% of the 80 million active mobile subscriptions in the UK are registered with the TPS.

Odd, considering they also discovered 7 in 10 mobile users had received a nuisance call.

Don’t be lazy – get your phone registered and cut off ALL the channels for cold callers.


Users often overlook their smartphones when blocking cold calls


Blocking cold calls

Blocking is an effective way of beating off cold callers.

As a first step, you can contact your provider and ask them to set up call screening. Calls will display a Caller-ID showing you the number of the caller.  

There are a number of blocking services out there, but they cost money.

We like Community Call Blocker, which allows you to block any number the site’s community has decided is dodgy.

The sign-up fee is £39.99 and the service claims to stop 99% of telesales, scam, harassment and silent calls.

The Community Call Blocker will answer the phone for you and, if the number has been flagged up already by the community, it won’t let it through.


An introduction to Community Call Blocker

TrueCall is probably the best known call blocking service on the market.

For £100 you can get the cheapest product, the imaginatively named Call Blocker, which allows calls from friends and family, but blocks those from unknown numbers.

Your provider may also have additional call blocking packages it can sell to you, so it might be worth ringing up and seeing if you can get a good deal.

TalkTalk’s Last Caller Barring feature, for example, allows you to bar incoming calls from certain numbers for free.

If you want a more sophisticated tool, you may have to pay. BT Privacy with Caller Display costs £1.75 a month, but they are offering a year free if you sign up for a 12 month line rental.

Some handsets, like BT's cordless BT 6500, costing £43.99, come with TruCall technology inbuilt. 

Blocking on smartphones

Many smartphones have inbuilt blocking software.

For Android users: Settings, Call > Call rejection > build your own auto-reject list

iPhone users: Recents > Recent Callers > Tap the “i” symbol next to a number you want to block


Go ex-directory

This one is simple: call your provider (BT, TalkTalk etc) and ask for your landline to be set as ex-directory.

Your number will be removed from public listings like 118 188 and the yellow pages.


How to complain about cold calls

If you’re being pestered by a cold calling company, don’t stay quiet about it.

Post their name and number on A Spokesman Said to warn others.

Other useful contacts are the ICO on 0303 123 1113 and Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.

Only contact Action Fraud if you suspect a company has called you AFTER you’ve demanded to be struck of their list.

If you receive a spam text, forward it to 7726 (you won’t be charged).

Top Tip: If you buy something over the phone, you are protected by the Distance Selling Regulations. This means you have seven working days from when you get the item to return it and claim a full refund.


Recent cold calling news: 

Green energy company Home Energy and Lifestyle Management made the headlines in September when it was fined £200,000 for breaking marketing regulations - the largest fine on record.

On October 24, the government announced that directors of cold calling companies could be held personally liable and face fines of £500,000. 

This guide was updated on 24.10.16


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