Nuisance communications, particularly calls can take many forms; from annoying unwanted cold sales calls to threatening/offensive calls to phishing scams.
These are likely to have increased during lockdown as we spend more time at home, and these are usually targeted at the vulnerable and elderly.
Blocking the Calls
In 2017 Trading Standards launched a pilot programme in which 2000 call blocking devices were given out. By 2019 this was 99% effective as blocking scam and nuisance phone calls.
You can purchase one for about £100.
You can also register with the Telephone Preference Service for free to reduce nuisance calls. You are added to a list confirming you do not wish to receive sales and marketing calls from individuals (but does not apply to computer auto generated calls).
Your own telephone provider may also have services to block or reduce unwanted nuisance calls.
You can make a complaint directly to the company contacting you. You can also explicitly ask the companies to stop contacting you and take you off their call/marketing list.
If you do not consider that the company had permission to contact you in the first place you could complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office. Make sure to take down details of the number they contacted you from, the time and date, and the company.
The Information Commissioner’s Office can then issue fines to the company, which it did in February 2021 to the tune of £270,000 to two companies for making 860,000 unlawful marketing calls.
If you get silent or abandoned calls you can also complain to Ofcom.
These are unlawful means by which a fraudster will try to obtain valuable personal information or even money from the victim.
This is obviously a crime and if you fall prey to these you should contact the police and/or Action Fraud. You may have some protection through your bank or card company if you have been the victim of fraud.
You should never reveal your personal details and if you feel unsure you should hang up and ring the company directly to check whether the call was genuine.
These are getting more and more sophisticated and even the best of us can get scammed.
On the extreme end, if the nuisance calls are threatening or intimidating, you could also take action on the basis this may constitute harassment.
Harassment is defined as the way someone behaves which causes you distress or alarm. The behaviour must happen on more than one occasion and can be in the form of text messages, calls, e-mails/letters, physical or verbal acts, etc.
It is a crime under the Protection from Harassment Act 1977 and in extreme and urgent situations you should contact the police.
In special circumstances you can obtain an injunction and/or claim for compensation for the distress caused also under the Protection from Harassment Act 1977.
It is can also be an offence under s127 of the Communications Act to send a message over a public electronic communications network that is grossly offence or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character.
In addition under s1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988, it is an offence for anyway to send a letter or other form of electronic communication which is indecent or grossly offence, threatening or false and cause distress or anxiety to the recipient.
Be vigilant with your personal data and know that you do not have to put up with these communications especially if they are unwanted and unwarranted.
Whilst for the most part they are an annoyance, for some it deeply impacts their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
There are many organisations and resources out there so don’t feel you are alone in this; seek help at the earliest opportunity and don’t suffer in silence.