From today, cold callers pushing everything from PPI claims to whiplash claims will have to display their phone number when bombarding people with calls. Every firm that's registered in the UK will be subject to the new rules - even when their call centre is based abroad.
It means that anyone with a phone that can display the number of the caller, can effectively screen unwanted calls, and if they keep getting calls from the same numbers - it makes it far easier for them to report it.
The initiative was originally announced by Baroness Neville Rolfe, minister responsible for data protection, who said: "We're sending a clear message to rogue direct marketing companies. Nuisance calls are unacceptable and we will not hesitate to take action against the companies behind them."
ICO Head of Enforcement, Steve Eckersley added: "Any change that make it easier for us to track down and take action against companies making nuisance calls is a change that will reduce the annoyance these calls cause. We do investigate unscrupulous companies who hide their identities, and we can track them down, but it certainly makes our job more difficult. And when people are able to identify the number behind the call they've received, they're more likely to complain to us and that means we're more able to take action."
Ben Howarth, Policy Adviser for Motor and Liability at the ABI, pointed out that this wasn't just a victory for those who receive a lot of cold calls, but for everyone. He explains: "Claims Management Companies continue to fuel a compensation culture through nuisance calls, misleading adverts and high charges. Our recent research found that 83% of people have been contacted by a CMC and have been encouraged to claim compensation for personal injury or other financial loss with nearly half of people surveyed – 49% - cold called within the last week. Tougher regulation should ensure that honest customers do not end up footing the bill for the activities of the rogue firms."
What can you do?
In order to take full advantage of the new rules, there are a couple of important steps. You need to start by doing what you can to avoid the calls, so the best first step is to register with the telephone preference service. You can register online or by calling 0845 070 0707. This will mean companies cannot call unless you have given them permission to do so.
Once you have registered, you may also need to track down any companies that you gave permission to contact you at some point. The best approach is to wait for calls, and when they ring, ask for the name of the business and their phone number. That way you can contact them direct and ask to be removed from their database.
If you are still getting calls, this is where the new rules will really help you out. You should make a note of the number calling and the date and time. Then you can report them to the Information Commissioner's Office on 0303 123 1113. They will investigate, and can issue fines and force them to comply, encouraging them not to bother you again.
Victims of scams and fraud
Clampdown on cold callers kicks off today
Susan Tollefsen, Britain's oldest first time mother, was scammed out of £160,000 by a fraudster she met on an online dating site. A man claiming to be an Italian gold and diamond dealer told her he was in the middle of a land deal but couldn't access cash. Tollefsen felt sorry for him and started wiring him money, eventually selling her jewellery, her flat and borrowing £32,000 from friends to give him. Read the full story here.
In March 2015 an American woman who was only identified as 'Sarah' went on the popular US television programme the Dr Phil Show to reveal she had sent $1.4 million to a man that she had never met. Although she was certain she wasn't being scammed, her cousin made her go on the programme because she was convinced it was a scam. Find out more about the story here.
Maggie Surridge employed Lee Slocombe to lay a £350 deck in her garden in March 2015. However Slocombe used a combination of lies to scam Surridge out of thousands of pounds. He told Surridge that the front and back walls were dangerous and needed rebuilding and also conned her into building a porch, all for the cost of £8,500. Read the full story here.
It's not just individuals who can be the victims of scams, big corporations can also fall foul of these fraudulent practices. In 2015 Claire Dunleavy repeatedly used a 7p 'reduced' sticker to get significant amounts of money off her shopping at an Asda store in Burslem, ending up with her paying just £15.66 for a shop that should have cost £69.02. Read the full story here.
Sylvia Kneller, 76, was conned out of £200,000 over the space of 56 years thanks to scam mail. The pensioner became addicted to responding to the fraudsters, convinced that she would one day win a fortune. Ms Kneller would receive letters claiming she had won large sums of money but she needed to send processing fees to claim her prize. Learn about the full story here.
Leslie Jubb, 103, became Britain's oldest scam victim in August last year when he was conned out of £60,000 after being sent an endless stream of catalogues promising prizes in return for purchasing overpriced goods. The extent of this con was discovered when Mr Jubb temporarily moved into a care home and his family discovered what he had lost. Find out more about this story here.
Stephen Cox won more than £100,000 on the National Lottery in 2003 but has been left with nothing after falling victim to two conmen. The 63-year-old was pressured into handing over £60,000 to the men who told him his roof needed fixing. They walked him into banks and building societies persuading him to part with £80,000 of cash while doing no work in return. See the full story here.
Last year the Metropolitan Police released CCTV footage of a woman who had £250 stolen at a cash machine in Dagenham. The scam involved two men distracting the woman at the machine, pressing the button for £250 then taking the money and running away. Read about the full story here.
Rebecca Ferguson shot to fame as a runner up on the X-Factor in 2010 but fell victim to a scam artist last year when someone she had believed to be a friend conned her out of £43,000. Rachel Taylor befriended the singer in 2012 and claimed to be a qualified accountant, so Ferguson allowed her to look after her finances. Instead of doing this Taylor stole £43,000 from the Liverpudlian singer. Read more here.
When Rebecca Lewis discovered her fiance had started a relationship with a woman he met online she packed her bags to leave. But that didn't stop her checking out the mystery woman, Rebecca quickly realised Paul Rusher's new love was actually part of a romance scam. She told Paul just before he sent the scammers £2,000 which was supposed to bring his new girlfriend to England. Find the full story here.