Give cold callers the cold shoulder

I've had a phone addiction since childhood. Growing up in our crazy house in Ireland, calls to the house would be received and answered up to three in the morning without a complaint. It was a 24/7 social call centre and we all loved it. OK, I'm Irish with an American mother, so talking would always come naturally to me.

Later, with the arrival of the mobile phone, my addiction got out of hand. When I worked for Five (Channel Five now) I personally accounted for one fifth of its mobile phone bill. One month I even managed to exceed £4,000. In my defence, I was travelling around the world at the time, and I suspect there may have been some fraudulent activity contributing to my high bill. At least that was my story and I'm sticking to it.

Our mobile phones - and emails - are now an extension of our bodies, if not our lives, so it's no wonder that mass-marketing scams conducted via phone calls, text messages, emails and mailings are cited as the fastest growing source of personal fraud, with the Office of Fair Trading estimating losses at £3.5 billion each year. Fraudulent ploys, from pyramid schemes and holiday clubs to high-risk investment schemes, cost each UK adult £70 a year.

Over 3.2 million of us a year are targeted by these kind of scams, and because they often go unreported, there may be many more victims out there. Phone users continue to be duped by the cold-calling fraudster. And who hasn't looked twice at an unsolicited but 'official-looking' email? No matter how sophisticated the scammer is and the type of scam – the most potent weapon against them is plain common sense.

How it works

When someone phones you and starts off by explaining that they aren't conducting a sales call, you can bet they are - and a dodgy one at that.

One of my colleagues recently received a call from a woman saying she wasn't doing a sales pitch but simply conducting "a pre-qualifying inquiry to gauge his suitability for receiving information regarding land investments in the UK". Reading from a script, she continued: "If given the right opportunity, would you purchase land if you could exceed the growth potential of your current investment?"

Luckily, my colleague, who's rather savvy, instantly smelt a rat and fired back some questions of his own – but the woman refused to divulge either the address of the company or the name of its chief executive, or give out any contact details other than a web address.

So if you're bored and wish to interrogate your cold caller then by all means do, and send us your stories to entertain us. Otherwise just hang up.

Play along

Moneywise reader John Golder, in his seventies, received an unsolicited call in January from someone claiming to be from NatWest. "He said he was calling me about mis-sold insurance on a mortgage I had from NatWest, and that it now wanted to refund me," John says.

Fortunately, John was immediately suspicious and put the phone down, but not before he was subjected to a tirade of abuse when he challenged the caller. And it didn't stop there – the calls kept on coming over the next few days.

John contacted NatWest and agreed to work with the bank to expose the fraudsters, so when he got another call from the caller purporting to be from the bank he allowed them to suck him into their scam. The caller said all the application forms for the 'refund' would be sent to John but "would he mind talking to the company's legal department for a security check?"

John went along with this and gave all the information requested, including his full personal and credit card details. As expected, £214.99 was taken from his account without his permission in two withdrawals. Within hours NatWest refunded John's money and the police were called in.

Promising money for nothing, with some seemingly plausible conditions, is a classic fraudulent manoeuvre, but don't fall for it. It might seem obvious, but if you receive an unsolicited call, hang up, delete those emails and don't ever press reply to any mass-marketed texts.

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Your Comments

Why 'hang up'

Make them pay by putting the phone down (quietly) and let them talk to themselves

In my case it's someone claiming to be from Sky. We must have had about two dozen calls over the past three months & there's no sign of them stopping.
Personally (if I've got the time) I prefer to engage them in inane conversation about the weather & their health in the (perhaps naive) hope that it will boost their phone bill. This usually confuses them & they keep returning to the first line of their script until hanging up without a further word.
I'm pleased to hear that John managed to engage the support of Natwest. I tried enlisting the help of Sky but they refused. If anyone else is experiencing the 'Sky' calls, perhaps they would like to put the pressure on the real Sky. Or perhaps someone from the real Sky would like to explain why they are happy to take peoples money but are not interested in repaying this loyalty!

I keep getting calls from a 'computer security company' saying I have faults and vulnerabilities on my computer. They offer to help. I string them along by saying I need to boot up my computer which, of course, usually takes 5 - 7 minutes. I then act a bit dumb about what they are asking me to do before eventually just leaving the phone on the side until they ring off. My best effort to date is about 25 minutes including 3 ring backs from them to see if the computer has rebooted yet. I think it is very noble of them to provide such fine sport for us...

Get a number of these calls - alternative investments, fine wines, land banking, carbon credits. Some of the kids on the other end of the line you do feel sorry for. They've been blagged into a crummy job trying to con the feeble minded out of their life savings by adverts proclaiming "you can earn up to £100K+" that the free sheets and tabloids alike are only too happy to place. I spoke to one rather sweet young girl who was clearly being prompted from the other side of the room as I questioned her about the company's provenance - registered at companies’ house, web address, etc. If they are reasonably pleasant will tell them I'll ask for their name and direct number and tell them I'll do my own due diligence before proceeding further. I'll tell them if the company and its incredible products pass my test when I ring back I will ask for them personally and ensure they get fair commission from my business which in 99.99% of cases will never materialise. Then again if they're some obnoxious wide boy/girl who's clearly losing their rag because I won't walk blindly into their traps (and I've got some free time on my mischievous hands) there's nothing better than keeping them strung along for while they wasting time trying to sell their snake oil to me, some other poor dupe might be escaping their tentacles elsewhere.

I received the same call a couple of weeks ago, so I played along. The caller told me there was a fault/virus on the broadband connection and that they could help me clear it. So I said to her "who is my ISP then"? She tried to evade the question and so I repeated myself with a stern voice and she replied Talk Talk which is totally incorrect, so I replied to her saying "NO you are incorrect they are not my ISP, so you see I said to her you know nothing! There is no way of you know whether there is a fault with my line is there"!! She hung up immediately and never called back either! I felt so good after that ...... next one please!

I must get about one or two of these calls every week. These are not the 'one-man-band' sort of scam, but more the maketting (sales!) schemes of so-called reputable companies.

I find them very easy to recognise...and to handle. Normally there is a slight delay before the agent comes on the line. This is because it takes a short time for the power dialing system to detect that you have picked up the phone and for it to assign it to a particular agent. The assigned agent then has to read your name form the screen and say "Good afternoon, may I speak to Mr ??? please". I have an unusual surname, and the Agent will always pause, before attempting to pronounce my surname.

I simply say "Sure, he's upstairs, just a second and I'll go and get him." I then put the phone down on the table and ignore it!

When I get a call purporting to be a survey I always ask for the company name and the person's MRS number. Somtimes they mutter a name but the MRS number always stumps them and they hang up, unless, of course, they are doing real market research.

After receiving loads of calls over the last few weeks about all kinds of different things and deciding to put the phone down on them, today my husband said " are you aware that we are signed up to the Telephone Preference Service and...." and before he could finish the sentence they were off the phone like wildfire! It works a treat, so try it.

Same sort of call, a foreign chap, usually Indian, calls several times a week, wanting me to switch on the computer, if I tell him, I hav'nt got a computer, he mutters something and then the phone goes dead, always part of a telephone number, when you dial 1471, usually 0111206, but nothing else. Anyway the same chap came on the phone the other day, same old thing, I told him that, I was a computer engineer, the cheeky bugger said to me, whats the ISP for google and Yahoo, I told him I had to fetch my book with all the ISP Numbers in it, he said any Tom, Dick, or Harry could give him the number just like that. Anyway my quick thinking got him a bit confused, I said I had to switch a machine on, he asked if Ihad switched the computer on, no I said, it's my magic box, that could get his telephone and company name in 20 seconds, there was a cry in a foriegn langauge and the phone went dead, I have not had another call from any of them for several days now. Such a quite life now without the telephone ringing every 25 minutes.

I have been having problems with two companies who repeatedly have phoned me, literally dozens of times over the last two or three years.  I have told them politely to remove me from their lists as I will be buying nothing more from them.  I am TPS registered.
I have told them they have more chance of installing double glazing in the Vatican than of me buying any of their products, and have suggested they phone the Pope or the even the Queen direct.  No difference, a couple of weeks later the phone rings again.
So, I will now hit them where it hurts.  Next time, I will arrange an appointment, and have one of their guys come round, let him show me all the products, negotiate the price as long as possible, and eventually tell him I am not interested.   I will then tell him how many times I have tried to turn off his company and will ask him to personally tell his boss to remove my name.   I will also tell him that next time I will do exactly the same. It is my intention to waste as much of their time, as they have wasted of mine.
If we all were to do this to the rogue companies who insist on cold calling, they will soon get the picture...and maybe even modify their procedures. 

I'm sure I saw this idea on this website: I've tried it and it works!
When the phone rings and the number is "International" or "Withheld", simply answer with, "Cold Call Capture".  If it is one of your friends, they may well ask what you're up to, so tell them, then they can start doing the same.
If it is a company, they may well ask "is that ____?"  (Otherwise, simply say, "Please confirm the name of the person you are calling.")  Explain that they are through to a filtering service to stop unwanted, unsolicited calls.  At this point you may be given a name (which might not be yours!).
If the call is not for you, just say, "That person is not on this number, so I will be unable to connect you."  Whatever the response, simply say, "Goodbye." and hang up.
Assuming the call is for you - but without confirming they have the correct number - say, "Before I can connect you, I'll need your company name and number."  If they haven't hung up yet, but it's not a call you want, say: "I am sorry, we are unable to connect calls from unapproved companies."  If it is the case, add, "This number is registered with the TPS, so we will be reporting this call on the customer's behalf."
Conclude with, "So I must disconnect you - goodbye." and hang up!
If at any point you realise it is a call you want, simply say, "Thank you; I'll put you through."  [If you want to really sound the part, press the R(ecall) (not redial) button on your phone, and hang up when you hear the dialling tone.  Then your phone will ring.  Answer as usual and it will be the call you just put on hold.  They will hear a click when they are put on hold, silence, then the ringing tone.  Just remember to change your voice a little bit when you first answer!]
The more of us do this, the more companies wil start to believe Cold Call Capture is a real filtering service (since other, expensive, similar filtering services do exist) and will stop bothering us!

One way round this is to get Truecall it stops all call that I don't want and it is interesting to look back on the log. italso recourd all call if you want it to.
You put into a list all the call that you want to receive and all other can go to the answer machhine or be told that you don't want to talt to them.
In the first week it stop 27 calls.

watch my youtube link


FREE PLAY BACK MESSAGE HERE - Just listen to the recording
Now this really works. Fed up with nuisance callers trying to sell you something you don't want. Well here's the perfect solution that REALLY works! The perfect solutions giving you control. It's free here on my YouTube site.
Simply play back this video to the sales caller. Don't forget to put your phone on loud speaker just so you can hear the reactions from the cold caller. Put your phone as close as possible to the speaker system on your computer.
Its hilarious and works on most callers who are trying to sell you something. Its fun easy and really works. I have had some laughs doing this especially when you hear the sales person talking to the video HaHa LOL!!!
This time you will find its the cold caller that ends up terminating the phone call out of frustration!
It's also good for anyone who is vulnerable and unable to deal with these types of nuisance pestering callers or just wants fun with revenge . But let me know how you get on and write back with your stories as would love to know how you get on... So get your revenge! Give it a go ..
So have fun and enjoy ...
p.s why not record your funny calls and post on youtube ?
Kind Regards Tubesort

I have had similar calls. Usually saying that they are ringing from my Internet provider, though when I ask them which provider, they say "all of them"! They ask my to log into a site and download a file which allows them to access my computer remotely and show me which files are corrupted! As an engineer I use similar software myself to iron out problems on remote computers. If you get a call like this just thank them politely and put the phone down. Many reputable companies will have an online scanner that will scan your computer and remove any nasties for you free of charge.

I get a lot of cold callers and the way I deal with it depends on the mood I am  in at the time.
Sometimes I let them rabbit on while I go to make  a cup of coffee,  (after all, it is their money they are wasing), sometimes I hang up, (although I have had then call me back to tell me I am rude!!)
Other times I will let them go all through their sles speal and then tell them I will have to ask the Landlord and get back to them if they will leave me their number! Oh my word. they hang up PDQ!I  have found that the most effective of all so far and quite amusing.
I quite recently had a local company phone me to ask if I got a lot of cold calls, to which I relied "Yes" I was then told that they could stop these permantly for a one off fee of £24. and assured me that mant people had, signed up and had no more trouble.  My reply to that was, "I do not accept cold callers at my door and neither do I on the phone thank you!"  The caller hung up, I have heard nomore from them.
I hope some of these amuse you all in the Moneywise Office.