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Nuisance and cold-call numbers rocket in the UK – here’s how to hit back

Robin Bowman

Robin Bowman
Jan 8, 2018

Brits were bombarded by over two billion cold calls and texts last year – that amounts to 4,200 every minute.

The analysis found that pensions, payment protection insurance (PPI) or other insurance products were most often the subject of calls, which were made at the rate of over six million a day.

The latest figures come a study commissioned by insurance group Aviva, and was based on data from Ofcom and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

They are revealed as the latest government estimates suggest that scammers conned more that £43m from people’s pension pots over three years. MPs are now considering introducing an urgent ban on cold calling over pensions.


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Claims management

Firms known as claims management companies that specialise in winning compensation for victims of accidents or holiday sickness made a massive 895 million calls and texts.

Those aged over 65 received most calls, and 30% of this group said they had received calls

MPs are set to debate the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill, which plans  to create a single financial guidance body that will look at the effects of  impact of cold-calling and recommend a ban to the secretary of state, who would have the power to implement it.

The research also found that 85% of people questioned by the company supported abolishing nuisance calls.

Rob Townend, UK claims director at Aviva, said: "Enough is enough. Nuisance calls are a national epidemic, which must be stopped. Whether it is a call chasing an injury you may or may not have sustained in an accident, or a pension scammer attempting to con unsuspecting individuals out of their hard-earned retirement savings, there is no place in our society for them.”

A study in 2016 by the consumer group Which? found that British households were pestered by cold callers as often as 60 times a month.

Pension problems

The problem with pension calls started after April 2015 when the government brought in new pension freedom rule that allow anyone over 55 and over with a defined contribution pension to take all or part of their retirement savings as a lump sum.

25% of their pension pot can be accessed tax free. And the whole amount can be reinvested in an investment of your choice.

Many unregulated companies – not authorised to give financial advice – have spring up to offer “pension reviews”, which are thinly disguised attempts to sell investment products, usually ones that are highly unsuitable for anyone planning a pension.

Last May, marketing company Keurboom Communications was fined a record £400,000 for making almost 100 million sales calls. The company, based in Luton, was prosecuted by the ICO for making over 91 million automated calls in less than a year about road traffic accidents or PPI claims.


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Companies are now required to display their numbers when making marketing calls – this means the person receiving the call to use the number to make a complaint to the ICO.

But to get around this companies often buy huge lists of phone numbers and split them between different calling numbers. This means that the number of complaints is less likely to reach the number that would trigger an investigation by the ICO.

What you can do to stop cold calls

There are effective ways to hit back at cold callers though.

1)  Block numbers

70% of calls are made to mobiles. So, the first line of defence is to block any nuisance numbers.

Each phone model is slightly different, but almost all smart phones now have a number blocking option by which you can block any nuisance number.

For an iPhone, got to ‘recents’ in your phone app, choose the number you want to block and tap the ‘i’ within the circle to the right of the number. Scroll down until you see ‘Block this caller’ and select it.

On an Android the process is very similar. On a Samsung 7, for example, choose the annoying number from recents, choose ‘i’ to bring up all the details and then select the three dots in the op right-hand corner and ‘block number’ will come up.

Most Androids require a variation of these steps to block a number, but, if you can’t work it out, simply do a quick Google for the make and model of your phone along with ‘how to block  a number.’

There are also plenty of number blocking apps you can download as well, if you think they are necessary.

2)  Telephone Preference Service

Register with the Telephone Preference Service. This allow consumers to opt out of all unsolicited sales calls, an it’s a free service.

There’s now an app called TPS Protect that helps mobile phone users opt out by screening calls and it also reports any suspicious numbers.

You can contact the TPS on 0345 070 0707 or register your number online.

But it’s not massively effective in our experience.

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, whether you realised it or not.

3) Call blockers

There are a few blocking services out there, but you’ll have to pay.

Community Call Blocker 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.

But it’s only as effective as its community is large and has raised an alarm about a number.

TrueCall is probably the most widely known call blocker on the market. It’s expensive, in our view.

Your network provider will also have a policy and some tools for dealing with unwanted calls, but, again, you will probably have to pay.

But not always. TalkTalk’s Last Caller Barring feature, for example, allows you to bar incoming calls from certain numbers for free.

A more sophisticated services are also offered. BT Privacy with Caller Display for example.  

Some handsets, too, come with like in-built blocking capabilities.

4) String them along

 We have no evidence that this works, but we believe it does.

String along a cold caller if you feel confident enough. Treat them as a scammer and play along, but do not reveal any personal information or agree to anything. Just keep asking questions.

Again, we have no hard evidence for this, but we believe if you are clearly a time waster, a note is made against your number.

The problem is that most of us Brits are just too polite and let cold callers go on for too long before we find ourselves answering questions and giving away personal info.


Let that caller know that if they bother you again they are going to be wasting a lot of their time – and losing money as a result. We’re pretty sure many of them put a note against your name and number.

And when dealing with pension cold calls …

These are often the worst as they can start people down a path that leads to them losing thousands, sometimes many tens of thousands of pounds.

The most important thing here is DO NOT STAY ON THE PHONE TO THESE PEOPLE.

However, pleasant they sound, they do not have your interests at heart.

They are NOT a genuine pension review, it’s simply a means of selling you a product that will be wholly wrong for a pension investment and for which they will be earning a fat commission.

Thousands of people have lost money in this way.

Our advice is to politely tell the caller, ‘no thank you’, and disconnect the call. Then again, be as rude as you like.

If you want to know more about how these people operate and the underhand tactics they use, check out our guide here.


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