There are many different types of marketing and nuisance calls. Some are from businesses trying to sell you something you don’t want or need — such as double-glazing — while others are recorded messages that say you are due compensation for a mis-sold insurance policy or personal injury.

Marketing calls and nuisance calls are sometimes referred to as “spam calls”. While these types of calls can be annoying, they’re not to be confused with scam calls, which are much more sinister. Scam calls are where cyber criminals pretend to be from legitimate organisations in order to trick you into handing over sensitive data, such as your financial or personal information or login details.

If you receive a scam call, you should report it to Action Fraud immediately so that the fraudster can be identified and punished. You can also report marketing and nuisance calls — which you should do if the caller is overly persistent or the calls are causing you stress or anxiety.

However, there are some things you can do to prevent spammers from calling you in the first place. In this article, we’ll reveal what these are.

It is possible to block nuisance and marketing calls by adding the numbers to your blocked caller list, downloading a spam-blocking app, replacing your phone with a special call-blocking one or buying a call-blocking device.

You may also be able to stop spam calls by asking to be removed from call lists, registering with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), not revealing your number or screening incoming calls.

Keep reading to find out exactly how to stop nuisance and marketing calls.

There are various ways to block unwanted calls:

  • Download a spam-blocking app — While you can block spam numbers manually in your phone settings, apps like Truecaller and Hiya make things easier. They have databases of known nuisance numbers, so they can tell you whether a call is likely to be spam, and some can also detect malware in text messages to help protect you from viruses.
  • Buy a call-blocking home phone — If you are getting a high volume of marketing or nuisance calls on your landline, it might be worth replacing your handset with a special call-blocking one that intercepts the calls even before the phone starts ringing.
  • Buy a call-blocking device — An alternative to replacing your telephone is to buy a standalone blocking device that plugs into your existing handset. Like call-blocking phones, they block calls from numbers that appear on their blacklists.

It is worth speaking to your network provider to ask them which call-blocking products or services they offer. They will be able to talk you through the specific features and can help you decide on the best option for you. Note that you may be charged for using these services.

How to protect yourself from unwanted calls

In addition to blocking nuisance calls, there are some other ways to protect yourself from marketing and nuisance calls:

Ask to be removed from call lists

When you receive a nuisance call, it is tempting to simply hang up without engaging in conversation. But a better option could be to ask the caller to remove your number from their call list. There is no guarantee that they will do this, though, so if they continue to call, you can try one of the other methods in this list.

It is worth mentioning here that if you do engage in conversation with the caller, you should be cautious about giving out your personal information. Never answer the phone by saying your full name, and allow the caller to reveal their name and the organisation they are calling from first, so you can be sure they are legitimate. If they ask you for financial information, hang up immediately and call the organisation they claim to be from on its official number.

Register with the Telephone Preference Service

The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) is the UK’s official ‘Do Not Call’ register for both mobile phones and landlines. Registering is free, and you should stop receiving nuisance calls within 28 days of doing so. The quickest way to sign up is online, but you can also register on a mobile by texting “TPS” along with your email address to 85095 or over the phone by calling 0345 070 0707. If you choose to register over the phone, the call will be free if your package includes free calls to landline numbers.

It is illegal for companies to call you if you are registered with the TPS, so generally, they take it very seriously. However, this law only applies to people, so registering won’t stop computer-generated nuisance calls.

It is worth bearing in mind that even if you’ve registered with the TPS, businesses can still call you for market research purposes (provided the call doesn’t include any marketing or collect data to use in future marketing calls) and companies you’ve previously given permission to can still call you. To stop these calls, you will need to contact the firm directly and ask them to remove you from their call list.

Don’t reveal your number

When you call an organisation, they will have your phone number on record, which means you risk being inundated with annoying marketing and sales calls from them.

To prevent this, you can hide your phone number before making the initial call in the following ways:

  • Add *67 or 141 before you dial their number
  • Install a burner app to allow you to call from a second number
  • Ask your network provider to conceal your phone number when making outgoing calls
  • Adjust your device’s settings to hide your phone number by default (our article on hiding your phone number explains exactly how to do this)

If companies can’t find your number, they will be unable to call you. So, to prevent marketing and nuisance calls on a landline, you can go ex-directory so it doesn’t appear in online and physical phone directories. What’s more, you should always think twice before giving out your phone number. If it is necessary to do so — for example, you’re buying something or using a price comparison website — look for an ‘opt-out’ box, which you can check to prevent a company from using your details to contact you for marketing purposes.

Screen your calls

A telemarketer will usually have thousands of phone numbers on their database, but they won’t always know whether a line is in use. If you get a call from a number you don’t recognise, it is best to ignore it because if the call connects, the telemarketer will know that the number is active and may start pestering you.

When screening your calls, it is a good idea to ensure that your voicemail is switched on so that a legitimate caller can leave you a message asking you to call them back.

Should I report marketing and nuisance calls?

You don’t have to report nuisance calls, but doing so can help identify the offenders and stop them from harassing people in the future.

If you are registered with the TPS, you can report spam calls on their website. You can also complain to the TPS if a business you previously gave marketing consent to continues to pester you after you’ve asked them not to. To help the TPS track down the organisations that are making illegal nuisance calls, it is advised that you lodge an official complaint about any company that ignores the regulations.

If you are not registered with the TPS or the spam calls continue, you can complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The ICO also deals with organisations that call about personal injury claims or mis-sold insurance policies without your permission.

Some of the other official bodies you can complain to about unwanted calls are:

When reporting a nuisance call, it is useful to have the date and time of the call, the name of the organisation that called you and the number they called you from.

If you receive spam text messages, you will usually be able to stop them by replying with the word “STOP”. It shouldn’t cost you anything to do this.

However, you should only do this if you are familiar with the sender or the message is from a shortcode (a number which is five to eight digits long). If the message is from a number you don’t recognise, it is best not to reply, as doing so will confirm that your number is active and could result in even more messages, as well as phone calls. Worse still, they may sell your contact information to other companies that will bombard you with nuisance calls and text messages. 

If the text message is from an unknown number, you should report it to your network provider by forwarding it to 7726, which spells out “spam” on traditional mobile phone keypads. These messages should be free of charge. 

You can also complain about spam text messages to the ICO.

You can stop nuisance and marketing calls in the following ways:

  • Block the spammer’s number — Add the numbers to your blocked caller list, download a spam-blocking app, replace your phone with a special call-blocking one or buy a call-blocking device
  • Ask to be removed from call lists — Instead of hanging up on a spam caller straight away, ask them to remove your number from their call list
  • Register with the TPS — Registering is free, and you should stop receiving nuisance calls within 28 days
  • Don’t reveal your phone number — Hide your number before making calls to organisations, list your number as ex-directory and opt-out of marketing communications
  • Screen incoming calls — Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t recognise

If you are receiving marketing and nuisance text messages, you can stop them by replying with the word “STOP”, reporting it to your network provider or complaining to the ICO.