How can I stop unwanted or nuisance phone calls?
There are different approaches you can take to dealing with nuisance or malicious calls, including silent calls. Take a look at our advice below.
If you suspect the calls you're receiving are of a criminal nature, you should consider contacting the Police. Examples might include:
- Threats of bodily harm
- Sexual assault
- Racially motivated threats
This is when a system automatically dials your number and attempts to put an agent on the line when the call is answered. If no agents are available the system ends the call.
The system is likely to make repeat calls to the same number until a successful connection with an agent is made. This can lead to persistent short silent calls.
Some companies use automated equipment to attempt to send faxes without knowing which numbers are connected to fax machines. If you’re called using this equipment, you’ll hear bleeps, screeching tones and white noise (similar to the noise when a dial-up modem is using the line).
If you think you’re getting automated sales calls, there are a few things you can check to confirm:
- Do the calls occur only between 8am and 9pm?
- Is there a fixed pattern to the time of the calls?
- When you answer, is there a delay of one or two seconds before the call is connected? You might hear a ‘click’ on the line followed by the ‘number unobtainable’ tone if there is no agent to take the call.
What can I do?
If you can speak with an agent, try to identify the source of the calls (including name and address) and resolve the issue directly with them. Make sure you ask the caller what company they are employed by, and not just what company they represent.
- Never answer the phone with either your telephone number or name.
- Make sure the caller identifies themselves first.
- Never give personal details to callers you don’t know.
- If a caller asks "what number is this?", don’t tell them. Instead ask the caller "what number did you dial?"
- Keep calm. Some nuisance callers may gain pleasure from an emotional response.
- If there’s no reply after you answer the phone, don’t say anything else.
- Don’t get involved in a conversation with a nuisance caller, or a caller you don’t know.
- Hang up the phone immediately. Alternatively, don’t hang up and walk away for a period, then simply go back and hang up a short time later.
- Use an answering machine to screen incoming calls.
- If you use voicemail, don’t include your name or phone number in your message. And never say that you’re not at home or on holiday.
- If available, try 1471 to identify the caller’s phone number.
- Press a digit on the keypad to simulate the initiation of a call trace and comment as if to someone else in the room.
- Keep a note of any nuisance calls to see if there is a pattern to the time of day they’re received.
Sign up with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS)
If you’re concerned about unwanted marketing calls you can opt-out of receiving them by registering your phone number with the TPS. The TPS is free and is the only official register to opt-out of marketing calls. Don’t register with any unofficial services that charge for opting out of marketing calls.
Registering with the TPS is easy to do but it doesn’t guarantee against all unwanted calls, and doesn't cover:
- International calls
- Market research calls
- Non-sales related calls
- Calls from companies to which you’ve already given your consent
It can take up to 28 days for your TPS registration to take effect. If you’re still getting nuisance calls after this period, you can register a complaint with the relevant regulator using the nuisance calls and texts reporter on the Which? website.
If you believe the calls you’re receiving are related to a fraud or scam, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or go to actionfraud.police.uk to report them. Action Fraud is the UK’s national fraud and internet crime reporting centre.
Make your phone number unlisted
You can opt to be unlisted or ex-directory so your number does not appear in public phone listings. If you opt to become ex-directory the change will take effect from the next publication of the Phonebook.
NOW TV phone extras
You can add any of the extras below for just £1 a month each to help you deal with unwanted calls.
Related article What phone extras or call features can I get?
This lets you see who’s calling before you answer the phone.
To see the caller’s number your phone needs to be able to display numbers.
To use caller display, you need to add it as one of your phone extras.
Last caller barring
If you’re getting frequent unwanted calls from the same number, you can block the number so they can’t bother you again. You can have up to 10 numbers blocked at a time.
Last caller barring lets you block the last number that called you, even if you don’t know the phone number.
To use last caller barring, you need to add it as one of your phone extras.
Anonymous Caller Reject
This feature stops any caller withholding their number from getting through to you.
A word of warning – blocking calls from withheld numbers may affect important calls as well, for example calls from doctors or hospitals.
To use Anonymous Caller Reject, you need to add it as one of your phone extras.
Still receiving unwanted calls?
If none of these suggestions stop you receiving unwanted calls, you might want to speak to one of the regulators.
The guides below provide some useful advice on which regulator is best to contact for your situation.
Ofcom’s nuisance calls and messages guide
Which? Nuisance calls and texts campaign