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How to Deal with Nuisance Calls

1 September 2017

Latest News

Written byPhil MacKechnie

How to Deal with Nuisance Calls

The phone rings and Martin reaches to answer. He has been alone at home for most of the day and it’s a welcome distraction. The caller (Andrea) is warm and friendly and Martin feels happy to simply have a conversation with another person. Andrea says that she is from Martin’s bank and tells him that there has been a security breach on his account. To verify his identity, and before she can proceed, Andrea asks Martin to confirm his bank card number.

At first, Martin is hesitant but when Andrea points out that the phone number on his caller ID is the same number as his bank customer services he feels reassured. So, he hands over his account and bank card details.

Andrea calls back the next day and again Martin enjoys chatting to Andrea – he feels a rapport and trust with her. Once again, to verify his identity, Andrea asks for Martin to confirm numbers 1 and 3 of his PIN. When the phone rings on the third day, Martin recognises Andrea’s voice and welcomes her call as she is the only person he has spoken to all day. Andrea asks for Martin to confirm numbers 2 and 4 of his PIN.

Andrea informs Martin that the bank will send a special courier to collect his old card to ensure that it is safely returned. Martin duly hands over his bank card to a ‘fake’ courier and Andrea has already secured his full PIN, ready to empty his account.

This is how easy it is to be groomed by a phone-scam caller who cultivates your trust and then extracts your banking details before you realise what is going on.

This might sound naive but it is so common, that Age UK has found that over half (53 per cent) of people aged 65+ believe they have been targeted by fraudsters.

The elderly are especially vulnerable and are prime targets for fraudsters, for a variety of reasons:

  • Their mental cognition and judgment decline.
  • It is considered they have more money from life savings.
  • They may be under financial pressure and likely to fall for investment scams.
  • They may be socially isolated and be more susceptible to be groomed by a ‘friendly’ caller.

It is a heart-breaking reality that our UK elderly are victims for unscrupulous fraudsters, who perceive them as an easy target to drain of their hard-earned life savings. As our parents and relatives age, we must be vigilant to ensure we protect any vulnerability they have by educating them and watching for signs that they may have been targeted.

Once a victim has been defrauded, they often feel shame and may feel partially responsible for being so gullible. As a result, they may try to hide the crime from their family. Many victims do not even report fraud crimes for these reasons and it is estimated that less than five percent of people report scams (Age UK).

‘Very often a victim cannot admit to themselves that they have been the victim of a scam and they do not tell anyone, even family or friends’. OFT

It doesn’t always stop there for once a person responds to a scam, they can be added to a ‘suckers list’ to be labeled as an ‘easy touch’ and can be targeted relentlessly. In March 2014, trading standards officers received a list of over 100,000 people on such a list, with the majority being elderly and vulnerable people. Age UK

Government to help dementia sufferers against nuisance calls

In April this year (2017), the Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the government would be taking measures against scam callers by installing call blocking devices, such as TrueCall, into the homes of the most vulnerable at risk from nuisance callers. Predominantly those with dementia and those identified by their GP.

The Prime Minister said, “This new, targeted scheme is the latest step in the UK government’s fight against nuisance calls, protecting those who are most at risk, including those with dementia.”

Hilda Hayo, The chief executive of Dementia UK responded by saying “These calls can, not only have a negative financial impact but can also lead to psychological effects such as anxiety, depression and a loss of self-esteem. We frequently receive calls to our national helpline from family members, who are concerned that their relative with dementia has fallen prey to rogue traders.”

A call blocking device, such as TrueCall, allows phone calls from trusted numbers to be put straight through but blocks calls by asking unrecognised phone number callers to identify themselves. They have been likened to having your own receptionist service at home, acting as a gatekeeper on your phone line.

Last year, the National Trading Standards Scam Team ran a similar campaign with call blockers, which resulted in 93% of participants stating that they felt safer in their home.

Age UK estimates that half a million older people have been a victim to losing savings through scams and fraudsters. With a third surveyed having lost over £1,000 or more. 

Common phone scams to be aware of

  • Investment scams

A caller will try to convince you of an ‘unmissable’ investment opportunity with ‘unbelievable’ returns. Usually, the call will involve the pressure of a time deadline urging you to act with urgency.

  • Pensions scams

Over 55s now have more control over their pension pots and have the ability to release a substantial amount of money. This has been a natural target for fraudsters offering pension advice and help.

  • Computer help scams

A caller will pretend to be from Microsoft or another reputable IT company and claim that there has been a security breach. The caller will prompt you to hand over password or credit card details or ask you to download software on your machine.

  • Bank account security breach scams

Directly targeted at stealing online banking login details, a caller will try to obtain passwords or PINs. This may be conducted over several phone calls.

Another scam involves sending a courier to pick up your credit card after a reported problem. Or, suggesting money is moved to a new ‘safe’ account whilst they resolve a security breach on your bank account.

  • Compensation calls

Mis-sold PPI, car accidents and compensation for accidents are common subjects from cold callers. However, these can be scammers. There is no way to discern between a genuine company and a scammer, other than hanging up the call and contacting a reputable firm directly.

In all these instances, hang up the phone immediately and do not engage in any conversation.

Number spoofing

Telephone fraudsters are now using a technique that involves cloning the phone number of a credible company, so that when they call it shows up on the victim’s caller ID as a trusted number. This is known as ‘number spoofing’.

The caller will draw attention to the caller ID as validation that they are a genuine caller. Never assume that the person you are speaking to is who they say they are or trust your caller ID.

Open phone line

A scammer can also target a victim by keeping the phone line open after the potential victim has hung up. For example, the victim may be suspicious about the validity of the call, so the scammer asks the victim to hang up and call the bank customer services line.

The victim puts the phone down but the telephone fraudster does not hang up and instead, keeps the phone line open.

When the target returns with the phone number for their bank, they are connected back to the scammer and they assume that they are talking to a genuine employee of the bank.

If you have received a scam call, wait five to ten minutes before trying to make a phone call. Or, use another phone to make the call.

What to do if you do get a nuisance call

  • Answer with a ‘hello’ and don’t answer with your name or your telephone number.
  • Ask who is calling.
  • Ask for the caller’s details, including organisation name, address, and telephone.
  • Do not give out any personal details.
  • Never give out any financial details over the phone.
  • If in doubt about the validity of a call from your bank or other organisation, end the call (wait ten minutes to ensure the scam call is disconnected) and then contact the company or bank on a number that you have on record.
  • If you feel under pressure to give out personal details or to complete a time limited offer, then end the phone call. A genuine and reputable company would never use pressured sales techniques on a phone call.
  • Remember that at any time you can simply put the phone down to end the call without saying anything. You have control to end the conversation this way and should never feel pressured, intimidated or harassed.

What you can do to protect your phone line

  • Install TrueCall or another call blocking device:
  • Register with TPS Online to opt out of marketing calls:
  • Register with Silent Guard to stop silent or prerecorded message calls:

If you have been a victim what do you do?

  • Report nuisance calls to ICO.
  • Contact Action Fraud.
  • Contact Trading Standards.

Useful guides for more reading and viewing

  • Avoiding Scams [PDF], Age UK
  • Ofcom nuisance call guide


Phil MacKechnie

Phil MacKechnie

Franchise Development Director

My passion is to help home care business owners start and grow their businesses and promote Radfield’s purpose and mission.

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