Nuisance Phone Calls

The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is the UK’s only official ‘Do Not Call’ register for landlines and Mobile numbers. It allows people and businesses to opt out of unsolicited live sales and marketing calls.

It’s free and quick to register a telephone number. Doing so will reduce the amount of unwanted sales and marketing calls you receive. There is also a register for businesses, the Corporate Telephone Preference Service.

If a number is registered with the TPS/CTPS, organisations are legally required – by the Privacy and Electronic (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 – to refrain from calling it. In the UK, the Information Commissioner’s Office enforces the law and has power to fine firms that break it.

Registering your telephone number with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is a good idea. It prevents businesses based in the UK from cold calling you without your permission. If they do so, they are committing an offence and can be fined.

Take care to use only the free TPS contact details and do not pay money to scam and copycat websites.

Unfortunately, its powers do not extend to calls made from other countries and we are having to learn to live with our phone ringing with nuisance and scam calls on a regular basis.

Telephone service providers have introduced measures to prevent many of them getting through and are actively seeking ways to reduce them even further. The scammers are, at the same time, doing their best to get round them.

Caller identification is a very useful feature of modern phones and enables us to see who it is ringing so that we can decide whether or not to answer. It also enables us to block specific numbers from getting through in the first place.

Criminals use computers to make their dodgy calls for them. When answered they somerimes connect directly to a call centre but, increasingly, they work like this:

  • They use lists of telephone numbers stolen from a wide range of sources, including ex-directory and other private directories.
  • The computer generates fake numbers to appear as the caller identification and is capable of dialling thousands of numbers a minute.
  • If someone answers, they are connected to a recorded message or, if no message slot is available, it simply becomes a 'silent call'.
  • The message urges the recipient to press a key for more information.
  • If they do so, they are connected to a call centre where their details appear on a screen, allowing the operator to launch into their current scam. They are paid by results and are only interested in successfully tricking the victim. When one call ends, the next victim's details appear on their screen.
  • To add insult to injury, by pressing the key, it is the victim who starts paying for the call, not the call centre. It is charged at international premium rates that are very expensive, so the fraudsters still make money whether their main scam is successful or not.

Because the caller identification is fake, blocking it has little effect because the next call will appear to come from a different number. A recent refinement is to make the fake number look similar to the one being called so that it looks like a local call.

There is very little risk in answering one of these calls but never respond to the message and ring off immediately.