How to fight off the cold callers

Emma Woollacott
An angry and irritated young man screams into the telephone receiver over a white background.
An angry and irritated young man screams into the telephone receiver over a white background.

Nearly a million pounds worth of fines have been issued against cold-calling companies in the last two months - but the problem still continues.

In one recent case, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) caught Coventry firm Easyleads Limited making 16.7 million automated marketing calls about boiler repairs, and fined it £260,000.

In many cases, the people being targeted were ex-directory, and there were large numbers of calls late at night and early in the morning.

In another case, a company made 146 million calls about payment protection insurance in the space of just four months.

"We hear first-hand from people how utterly disruptive, annoying and sometimes distressing automated calls can be," says ICO enforcement group manager Andy Curry. "Firms cannot expect to get away with intruding into people's lives like this."

Your first step is to contact the Telephone Preference Service at or on 0345 070 0707, and ask to be added to its register. It can also block spam calls to mobiles through its TPS Protect service.

Unfortunately, though, many companies ignore the law completely - particularly those based overseas - and continue to call numbers on the list.

If you're a BT customer, you can use BT Call Protect to divert calls from known spam numbers to your voicemail, and can also create your own personal blacklist. Other phone providers have call screening services too.

And you can buy special devices to filter out spam, such as the trueCall Call Blocker.

See also: Scamwatch: ban on pension cold calls

See also: Nearly three in four adults 'have been targeted with scam messages'

When you do receive spam calls and texts, your best bet is to ignore them completely and hang up. Even texting 'STOP' to spam texts can encourage the spammers, as it shows that your number is 'live'.

You can report problem calls or texts to the ICO at or on 0303 123 1113, and also to your mobile provider, by texting them the number 7726 (which spells out 'spam').

And all this applies, even if you have had legitimate dealings with the company in the past.

"Just because an organisation might have a person's mobile phone number in its records, that doesn't mean it can call or send them marketing messages without their consent," says Curry. "This also applies to any associated companies."