Nuisance calls are not only annoying, but they also represent an astonishing financial risk. In May 2021, it was revealed that there had already been over one billion nuisance calls that year. In June, Citizens Advice warned that 36 million Brits had been targeted by scammers at the halfway point of 2021. Even the most scrupulous person can be scammed by nuisance callers.

This is because scammers used diabolically ingenious methods to trick people and pull on their heartstrings. For example, some are taking advantage of the Ukraine-Russia conflict by claiming to be fundraising for Ukrainian victims. Some have even gone as far as pretending to be ex-heavyweight world champion and mayor of Kyiv - Vitali Klitschko. Others have been using Covid as an opportunity to scam people by offering non-existent vaccine certificates in exchange for money.

This is not to mention the staggering amount of nuisance calls from legitimate but annoying telemarketers. Seemingly as soon as your phone number is placed on a database, you will receive a stream of calls. Furthermore, you may receive unwanted calls from people you would like to avoid.

It is perhaps best to have a two-pronged approach to tackling unwanted calls. The first approach should be prevention to limit your exposure to nuisance calls. The second approach would be to block calls from unwanted callers. This article will explain how to prevent spam calls and how to block nuisance calls.

The first thing you can do to prevent nuisance calls is to set up or switch to an ex-directory landline. When you do this, your number will not appear in the phone book or 118 directory service. This is usually a free service and helps put a barrier between you and cold callers. This is because spam callers often use the phone book as a database of numbers to call.

You can also sign up for the Telephone Preference Service. This adds you to a register of numbers that do not want to receive sales or marketing calls. This should stop you from receiving unwanted calls from legitimate businesses. This is because it is against the law for salespeople to call a number on the TPS. Of course, this will not stop nuisance calls from criminals. However, it will also improve your scam detection skills, as you will know a legitimate business would not make an illegal sales call.

You can sign up for the telephone preference service by registering online. You will need to provide your:

  • phone number
  • postcode
  • email address

Or you can phone the 24/7 automated service to register. The phone number for this service is:
0345 070 0707

Unfortunately, in recent years charity workers chasing donations have gained a negative reputation. This is mostly associated with charity workers on the high street, who hound shoppers with pressure sales tactics to sign up and donate to charities. These workers, dubbed 'Charity Chuggers' have become such an issue that over 100 towns have banned them from operating.

However, unwanted approaches by charity workers are not confined to the high street. Often people receive unsolicited calls from charities chasing donations. If you have signed up for the TPS service, you should not receive these types of calls from charities. However, as added insurance, you can take another step.

In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, you can register with the Fundraising Preference Service. This will stop nuisance calls from charities. You can register online for the FPS. Or, you can phone them on:

0300 3033 517

Monday to Friday, 8.30 am to 5.30 pm
Saturday, 9 am to midday

Call blocking phones are devices supplied by your home phone provider with in-built call blocking technology. For example, applicable BT landline phones use TrueCall technology to block calls from dodgy numbers. The call-blocking device will stop incoming calls from numbers on their database of cold callers and scammers.

The database is continually updated, and the phone will also block anonymous calls. Many handsets also have a dedicated call blocking button. So if a call does come through, you can instantly block the number with the press of a button.

Even if you are not with this particular network, you can buy a dedicated call-blocking landline phone. For example, Gigaset and Panasonic offer devices you can use on any landline network.

You can also use an external device such as the TrueCall call blocker to block calls from spam numbers. This allows you to list numbers that you recognise (family and friends), allowing that number to go straight through. However, you can block numbers using this service which gives them an automated voice message telling them not to phone again. If an unknown phone number calls, the device will play an automated voice message asking them to identify themselves. After receiving their voice message, you can either block the phone number or accept the call.

You can use BT’s Call Protect phone service for free. This will block nuisance calls - sending them directly to your voicemail. You can also choose to send certain types of phone numbers, such as international calls, or anonymous numbers, to your voicemail.

Sky's Talk Shield automatically blocks robots and automatic callers. For unrecognised numbers, callers are asked to identify themselves first. You will hear their voice message when you answer the phone, and you can allow or block the call. You can also put the phone numbers of family and friends on a list to be sent straight through.

TalkTalk has a similar service in place known as CallSafe to block numbers. It asks callers to identify themselves before you answer. You also have a blocked list and accept list to automatically block or accept calls.

There is also a way to block calls manually if you do not have a call-blocking phone, device, or service. Firstly if you receive calls from unknown callers, you can first look up information about the phone numbers. For example, you can check the area code to see where they are calling from. You might be expecting a call from a business based in a certain area, or it may come from an area a friend or family member is based. You can enter the area code into an area code checker to find out where it came from.

You can also enter the unknown caller's phone number into online services to find out if it is likely to be a nuisance call. They have a continuously updated database of nuisance call numbers. If you have identified that the unknown callers are spam or unwanted, you can block them.

You can use specific codes on your handset to block a number. For example, any landline can use BT's free Call Protect service. Just press 1572 and follow the instructions to block the previous caller. You can also use codes specific to your network provider to use their call-blocking services.

  • Sky - 1783
  • TalkTalk - 142
  • Virgin - 150 (Caller display only)

If you do not know the phone number of the last caller, you can press 1471 to find it. However, if they have withheld their number, this will not work.

Nuisance, unsolicited calls are an all too familiar annoyance. However, they are often far more nefarious, looking to scam people out of as much money as possible. Scammers have been known to use recent tragic events to manipulate good-souled people into handing over money. For what they think is a good cause. They may also pose as authority figures to try and trick people.

However, unwanted calls can also come from legitimate businesses that cold call with pressure sales tactics. You may also receive calls from people you just want to avoid for personal reasons. This is why blocking calls is so important. There are various methods to stop unwanted calls before they happen and block them when they do.

The first port of call is to make your landline ex-directory to keep it out of the phone book. This will help stop calls from scammers and spammers who use this as a database. You can also sign up for the Telephone Preference Service, which makes it illegal for companies to phone you with sales or marketing calls.

Similarly, you can stop calls from charities. The TPS should be enough to stop charities from calling your number. However, if it does not, you can sign up for the Fundraising Preference Service to stop this. This is not available in Scotland.

You can also use specific call-blocking phones. Suspicious numbers are automatically blocked, and most will have a specific button to block phone numbers. You can also use an external device to block calls from a database of scam and spam numbers. Some devices like the TrueCall call blocker will play an automated message to unknown callers asking them to identify themselves.

You can also use a call screening service supplied by your network provider. For example, BT customers can use the Call Protect service. This checks numbers against a database of spam numbers. If it is a spam number, it is blocked automatically, sending them to your voicemail.

The Sky Talk Shield has unknown numbers that identify themselves before a call goes through. You can accept or block their call from there. Talk Talks CallSafe is a similar service asking callers to first identify themselves. Each of these services allows you to have a personal blacklist and automatic connect list.

You can also manually block a number. You can manually check online if the number is from an area you recognise by searching the area code. Or you can manually enter the phone number into an online spam checker to see if anything flags up. If it is identified as spam, you can enter a code depending on your service provider to block the number. All landlines can use the BT service to block a number by dialling 1572. Or you may prefer to use a code specific to your landline provider, which are:

  • Sky - 1783
  • TalkTalk - 142
  • Virgin - 150 (Caller display only)

Dialling 1471 will reveal the number of the last caller. This does not work for withheld numbers.