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From cold calls to silent phone calls and even malicious calls, nuisance calls come in a variety of forms. Unwanted phone calls are not only annoying, they can also feel like harassment. Learn how to deal with unwanted and junk phone calls and ways to stop them contacting you in the first place.

Understanding different types of nuisance and unwanted calls

To find out how to deal with them and who to complain to, you should know about the different types of nuisance calls.

Marketing and sales calls

Telesales calls can be live or using an automated message. You could get calls from a company you’re with, like your mobile phone provider offering you an upgrade. Or you could receive ‘cold calls’, where you’re called by a company you’ve not had any dealings with before.

Malicious calls

Malicious calls can be abusive and/or threatening. They can also be from criminals trying to defraud you or get your personal information. Don’t give out any personal information over the phone if you don’t know the caller. If you receive malicious calls, contact your phone provider. They can help you block and report the issue. If you’re receiving threats to you or your family, you should contact the police immediately.

Silent phone calls

Silent calls are not usually malicious, but can be worrying. Many companies use a machine called a predictive dialler to phone lots of people at once. Predictive diallers are used by many organisations including debt collection agencies, sales and market research companies.

The diallers are meant to connect to a live call centre agent once the call is picked up. But if all the agents are busy, then you hear silence instead. This doesn’t mean to say that silent calls aren’t annoying and in some circumstances, they can be illegal.

Wrong numbers

Sometimes a person can misdial or misread the phone number they’re trying to call and contact you instead. These wrong numbers aren’t malicious, even if they are annoying.

Dealing with nuisance calls - how to screen and block numbers

SSE phone call features

We have some phone features that you can take advantage of to help with unwanted spam phone calls. Some of these features may come with an extra charge:

  • Anonymous call reject – this rejects phone calls from people who withhold their number
  • Caller display – shows you who's calling so you can screen your calls. You'll need to have a display screen on your phone to use this service
  • Choose to refuse – stops up to 10 numbers getting through to your phone

For more information see our article about phone features.

Register with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS)

The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is a free service. You can register to opt out of unsolicited sales and marketing calls. Legally, organisations like charities, voluntary organisations and political parties can’t call you if you’re on the TPS. You can also register mobile phone numbers. This only helps with unwanted phone calls, not text messages.

Once registered, you shouldn't get unsolicited sales calls. But the TPS won't necessarily stop automated calls, silent calls, scam or malicious phone calls.

Other tips

Here are some simple steps you can take against junk phone calls:

  • Be careful about marketing opt-in/out options on forms so you don't end up on marketing lists by mistake
  • Think about becoming ex-directory so marketing companies can't find you in the phone book
  • Consider fitting a call blocker to your phone. Some phones even come with one included. They vary in the level of protection they offer. Check what each device offers and whether it's right for you

Reporting unwanted calls

Reporting nuisance calls helps to tackle them head on. Keep a pad by your phone to note down unwanted numbers. You can call 1471 after you hang up to find out the number. This won’t show you withheld numbers however. Your first port of call will be us, your phone provider. We have a nuisance and unwanted phone calls team to deal with these issues. There are also other organisations you can report unwanted phone calls to.

The Information Commissioners Office (ICO)

The ICO is an independent authority dealing with data privacy. You can complain to them about unwanted telesales calls, recorded marketing messages or unsolicited marketing text messages.

The Telephone Preference Service (TPS)

If you’ve registered with the TPS and still get unwanted sales calls, make a complaint to them. They can investigate and send complaints to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) for further action.

Ofcom

Ofcom are the phone sector regulator and deal with a variety of issues around nuisance calls. If you're getting repeated silent calls, you can report these to Ofcom. They don't respond to individual complaints, but can use the information to investigate companies and take action against them.