Telephones, especially mobile phones can be a gift and a curse. They are tools that provide instant communication, worldwide if you need to reach someone in a hurry. This is especially true when using a smartphone - you have a device with you at all times capable of accessing the internet, internet messaging apps, texts and phone calls.
However, this extremely useful tool can be a gift and a curse. If you make a misstep when handling the privacy of your phone, or the wrong person gets hold of your phone number, your mobile could play host to continuous spam text messages and nuisance calls.
It is essential to guard your privacy and to know what to do when you receive spam texts and nuisance calls. Ofcom has stated that in three months in the summer of 2021 alone, 44.6 million people received nuisance calls or spam text messages. This is around 66% of the entire population of the UK. Scammers have even been taking advantage of recent global events to try and scam you out of money. Many people have received fraudulent spam text messages and nuisance calls from con artists pretending to be the NHS, the WHO, or the government pretending to contact them with regards to Covid - 19.
This article will explain how to report spam texts and report nuisance calls. It will also explain the best practices to avoid unwanted text messages and calls.
There is a special number designated to report spam text messages. This UK number is 7726. An easy way to remember this number is that it spells SPAM on the alphanumeric phone keypad. As instructed by the National Cyber Security Centre there are slightly different steps to take to report unwanted text messages on Apple and Android phones as shown below.
- Write down the suspicious phone number
- Press down and hold on the text bubble
- Press more
- Select the text message in question that you want to forward
- There should be an arrow at the bottom right of the screen - tap that
- Dial 7726 and hit send
- Write down the number for the unwanted text message
- Click into the text conversation then press and hold the bubble of the message you want to report
- At the top right of the screen three vertical dots will appear - tap that
- Then select forward
- Dial 7726 and hit send
This is a free service that allows your mobile phone provider to investigate where unwanted texts have come from. Then, if it is found to be malicious, the sender will be blocked, and their number may even be banned. If the above method does not work, you can contact your provider for a different method.
Alternatively, to report a message you can either screenshot the unsolicited texts or record your screen. Then you can attach this to an email and send it to [email protected].
How do I block and report unwanted calls?
Both iPhones and Android phones allow users to block unwanted calls. As reported by Uswitch, you can follow the below steps to block calls.
iPhone - (iOS 7 or later)
- Find the phone number in question from call list
- Press the i symbol beside the number
- Press 'block this caller'
- This will block the number from calling or messaging
- Find the nuisance call number in your call list
- Press the number and hit the three dots at the top right or slect more
- Select the option that lets you add the number to your reject list
- Furthermore, android gives you the option to block a number when you hang up on a call
You can also report any suspicious activity such as a suspected spam text or suspected phone scammers to the Information Commissioner's Office. The ICO have a dedicated online tool for reporting scammers. This includes:
- Scam calls and texts
- Spam emails
- Silent calls
How do I prevent cold calls and texts?
Your first port of call should be to register your number with the Telephone Preference Service. This should prevent any legitimate yet annoying/unwanted sales and marketing calls. The Telephone Preference Service will add you to their list of people who do not want to receive these types of calls, making it illegal to do so. So, if you do receive a call claiming to be from a sales or marketing company you know it is likely to be a scam, as a legitimate business will not break the law so frivolously. However, this does not include computer-generated automatic calls as the law only covers human callers. These types of calls are often called robocalls.
Also if you are receiving spam calls from charities you can register with a similar service. This service is the Fundraising Preference Service and registering with them will block charities from calling. This service is only available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Also, as a preventative measure, you should protect your personal or financial information as much as possible. In particular to stop unsolicited calls and texts be careful who you share your phone number with and what you consent to. Always be wary of competitions that ask for phone numbers. They may ask you to consent to your information being shared. If so they may share your phone number with numerous sales and marketing teams. You should also guard this information closely online as scammers will scour social media to gather phone numbers and intel about you to try and trick you.
What additional steps can I use to prevent unwanted mobile phone calls?
Smartphones give you additional security to prevent annoying calls. For example, you can install call-blocking apps. TrueCaller is perhaps the most established app you can use. This app has more than two billion numbers on a continually updated list which allows them to verify legitimate numbers and highlight spam. The app also allows you to build a blocked list. However, TrueCaller will not work on a messaging app like WhatsApp, so you will have to block numbers on those particular apps separately.
You can also go into the settings on your mobile phone and set it to automatically block anonymous callers. However, it is important to be aware that certain legitimate services will use a withheld number. This includes health and emergency services.
Also, a new phone number has been launched if a suspicious caller phones you claiming to be your bank. Simply hang up and dial 159 which will allow you to speak directly to your bank. There are certain things a bank will never ask you for when contacting you. This includes:
- Your full pin number
- Sending someone to collect cash
- Bank account or personal information via email or text
- They will never send a link for you to log in to
- Advise you to buy things such as diamonds
- To perform a test transaction
- Ask you to use a banking app that is separate from the official banking app
What do I do if I think I have been scammed?
The best thing to do if you feel that you have been scammed is to report the incident to Action Fraud as soon as possible. The quickest way to report this is to use their phoneline 0300 123 2040 which is available Monday to Friday 8am - 8pm.
Or you can use the online Action Fraud tool to make a report. You can create an account or use the tool as a guest. Advisors are available to respond and give advice 24 hours a day using this service.
How can I manually identify an unknown phone number?
There may be certain times when an unknown caller or unknown sender contacts you. They may even bypass any scam-checking apps you may have. If you know the number, you can manually enter the number into a designated website to see if it flags up as spam. Websites like Who Called Me will check the phone number against their database to see if anything like scams or spam flags up.
You can also look at the area code to see if the person who is calling is from an area you recognise. You can use an online area code checker to find out exactly what area the person is calling from. This should help you decipher whether or not the call is likely to be friendly or not. For example, if you live in England and a person is calling from a small town in Scotland where family members live, you may surmise that it is likely them phoning.
If the call is made to your landline and you miss the call you can dial 1471 to reveal the number.
How do I prevent unwanted calls to my landline?
You should also implement preventative measures already mentioned when thinking about your landline. For example, register for the TPS and the FPS. You should also be wary of who you give your landline number and to whom you give contacting consent.
Landline providers also usually have their own services for blocking and screening calls. Check with your landline provider for the best option or switch to a provider with better options. Modern landline devices also have blocking buttons built in so it may be time to upgrade if you have an old receiver. You can also purchase a separate device which blocks and screens calls to your landline such as trueCall.
You should also sign up for ex-directory on your landline. This means your phone number will not be put in the phone book and will not be available via BT 118500. This limits your exposure to sales and marketing teams and scammers as well.
Every year millions of people will be on the receiving end of annoying or malicious spam calls and texts. There are a number of ways to report and limit this. For example, sending a suspect text to 7726. Both Android and Apple devices have in-built tools allowing you to block numbers also.
You can also sign up for certain services as described to limit the visibility of your phone number. You should report to Action Fraud immediately if you believe you have been scammed. If you receive a call from a number you do not recognise you can also use manual steps to try and trace the number and find out if it is friendly or not.