Not for nothing are unsolicited calls referred to as 'nuisance calls'.
Whether they're wasting your time, interrupting your lunch or trying to intimidate you into buying things you don't need, nuisance calls are exasperating at best. At worst, they're a real blight on people's lives — and they're far from a minor problem.
A uSwitch survey laid bare the scale of the epidemic when it was revealed that almost one in 10 (87%) of Britons get calls from withheld numbers, with 40% getting one per week and 9% getting one per day.
Here, we'll arm you with the information you need to strike back at nuisance callers and keep unsolicited calls to a minimum. We'll also walk you through the services some broadband providers offer to help you, too.
Steps you can take to take to fight nuisance callers
Follow these precautions and you'll be doing all you can to keep safe and play nuisance callers at their own game.
1. Be careful who you give your details to
Prevention is always better than a cure, and that goes double for nuisance calls.
Perhaps the best way to ensure you don't get unwelcome calls is to look very carefully at the checkboxes you're asked to tick when you buy something or sign up for a news e-mail. Sometimes ticking the box gives the service provider freedom to share your details with any number of other companies, who could then share your details again with even more telephone sales companies.
If you want to make absolutely sure you don't get these calls, you have to look very closely at the companies you'd be allowing to contact you. If the small print mentions 'trusted parties' or 'third parties', you're allowing the company to pass on your details at will.
2. Get in touch with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS)
This is a completely free service that allows you to opt out of unsolicited calls entirely — on paper, at least. In practice, unwanted calls still find a way through. But it's still a smart step to take.
To register your mobile or landline number, you just have to call 0845 070 0707. Alternatively, from a mobile you can just text "TPS" and your e-mail address to 78070. You'll know you've been successful in signing up if you receive a text reply from the TPS.
There may be a charge for the text on some networks; however, for most users, the text should be included within their bundle.
The bar takes 28 days to come into effect, so you won't see an immediate reduction in calls.
Find out more here: Telephone Preference Service.
3. Consider BT's Nuisance Call Blocker phones
BT sells home phones that feature nuisance call blocking technology, which can shield users from up to 100% of unwanted calls. As well as calls from international and withheld numbers, it allows you to bar unknown callers, too. Keep in mind this claim is 'up to', which means it isn't guaranteed to block all nuisance calls. Still, it can help cut down on unwanted calls if you use the correct settings.
4. Are you using your telephone provider's anti-nuisance calls measures?
Many providers now go the extra mile to clamp down on unsolicited calls.
TalkTalk's free Last Caller Barring feature lets you block the last number that called you or input numbers that you'd like barred.
BT's Caller Display option, which costs just shy of £2 per month, is also useful. This lets you see the number of the person who's calling you so you can decide whether to take the call.
Virgin Media, meanwhile, operates a special Nuisance Calls Bureau that gives out helpful advice on tackling unsolicited calls. You can reach them on 0800 953 3333.
5. Go ex-directory
Although being removed from the phone book used to be something only the upper crust would consider, it's now a fairly standard way for people to avoid getting harassed by nuisance calls, going ex-directory is actually a very sensible thing to do. At the very least it will enable fewer telesales companies from getting hold of your number.
6. Never give out your details
Often sales reps pose as companies doing a survey and will ask you a series of question about your address, whereabouts and personal circumstances. Don't respond to these. Just apologise and put down the phone.
7. Ask where they got your number
Sometimes, if you're lucky, the rep will tell you how they got the number. From that you may be able to work out why you're being bothered with calls and take steps to put a stop to it.
8. Register the number and make a complaint
The next time you get a nuisance call, take a note of the time of the call, the company and the number. If you’re not sure of this use 1471. You can then use these to lodge a complaint with the telecoms regulator Ofcom.
Check out Ofcom's guide to handling nuisance calls here: Ofcom: handling nuisance calls.