Avoid unsolicited mobile phone calls

Rebecca Atkinson's picture

There are few things more annoying than unsolicited telephone calls, whether they’re from companies trying to sell you something or that old next-door neighbour you were thankful to wave goodbye to all those years ago.

But a new service from 118 800 is likely to make it even easier for strangers or old acquaintances to get in touch with you via your mobile phone.

Mobile phone numbers are normally private. However, 118 800 has recently launched the UK's first mobile telephone directory enquiry service, which allows anyone to call you with just a few shreds of information.

Connectivity, the company behind the service, claims it already has a list of 16 million mobile numbers and is now looking to build this up by encouraging people to volunteer their own details.

Despite privacy concerns, Connectivity says the service protects the privacy of mobile phone users because it does not actually hand over numbers to people using its service. Instead, it puts the caller in touch with the person they are trying to contact for a flat fee of £1.

Connectivity says: “All searches on 118800.co.uk are via our secure application that doesn’t show mobile numbers or names and addresses of individuals. Neither do we give prompts that could disclose personal information. Calls to people in our directory are made by us. The dialling is done securely by our system to keep your number safe - even our operators never see the mobile numbers of people in the directory.”

However, if you’re anything like me, the chances are you would rather not give people the option to try and contact you via your mobile phone.

Few things irritate me more than getting a ‘withheld number’ phoning my mobile, or receiving texts and calls from companies offering to ‘claim back my bank charges’.

Anyone I’d want to get in contact with me already has my mobile phone number – if they don’t, I’d have to question whether I’d actually want a call from them.

And even though Connectivity says it will not sell or pass on numbers to any commercial organisations, there doesn’t appear to be anything stopping companies from using its service to buy numbers – at £1 a pop, it’s an expensive way to build up a database, but that’s not to say there aren’t firms out there that will think the price worth it.

Thankfully, there is a way to opt-out from this service and get your number removed from the system.

To unsubscribe, you can either go to 118800.co.uk and follow the link at the top of the homepage to go ex-directory. Or you can text the letter 'E' to 118800 from the mobile phone you want to be made ex-directory. You will then be sent a text message confirming you've been taken off.

However, it may take four weeks for your ex-directory request to take effect, so it might be better to get your number removed sooner rather than later.

After all, if you change your mind down the line, there is nothing stopping you from putting your details back online.

Your Comments

I have been receiving links to this service from friends for several days recommending I go ex-directory but, every time i click the link the site is down. Does that mean it is overwhelmed with callers trying to go ex-directory or is the link fiction?

Triedto logg on site offline probably due to demand for removal of phone numbers. I think it is an affront to privacy as mobile phone numbers are not available to all and sundry.How can the watchdog allow such details to become public as many years ago no agreement was made to release my mobile number.

Update on 118800.co.uk: It seems the sheer number of people trying to opt-out of this directory has resulted in the website being temporarily suspended.

A message on the website reads: "We are undertaking some major developments to our 'Beta Service' to improve the experience for our customers. So the service isn't available at 118800.co.uk or by phone. We'll be back as soon as possible."

It adds that all requests to go ex-directory are being processed, so people who have opted out already don't need to do so again. 

However, if you haven't yet gone ex-directory and wish to do so, you'll have to wait until the service resumes. 

When I rang 118 800 on the 9 July (when I was writing my original blog) I was told by the very confused and stressed man who answered that it was experiencing an extremely high number of calls following a "hoax" email warning about the ex-directory service.

I asked him what was "hoax" about this email, but he didn't know other than it had resulted in a lot of people suddenly wanting to get their numbers removed.

Okay, so it's possible that the website has been suspended for other reasons, but personally I think they backed the wrong horse with this one!

I think this was a bad idea from the start. It could open the door to a host of hoax calls. It is true that it would be an expensive way to build a database of potential clients though. These days if you want to find someone you've lost contact with you go to Facebook, simple.

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