The most irritating cold callers and how to stop them

Most annoying cold callers
Most annoying cold callers

Cold callers are the bane of many people's lives - forcing them away from the table in the middle of dinner, or interrupting Eastenders just before the dramatic ending. It's bad enough when it's a chirpy salesperson on the other end of the line, but increasingly it's an automated message from a machine driving us mad. A new study has revealed the most annoying cold callers. It's also worth knowing what to do about them.

See also: Pleasant cold-caller may be fraudster, warns speech pattern analyst

See also: How to block nuisance calls - including PPI claims firms

The study, by telephone headset provider, found that we find calls about potential PPI claims the most irritating - with 39% of us saying they drive us crazy. This is followed by ambulance chasers, trying to find out if we've been in an accident - which wind up 33% of us.

In third place are home improvement companies, like kitchen firms and double glazing window salespeople (8%), fourth is phone companies flogging deals (7%), then insurance salespeople (6%), energy companies (5%), and pension sales (2%).

While 26% of people agree that cold callers are only trying to do their job, the vast majority of us have absolutely no time for them - and two thirds of us will immediately hang up the phone.

The people behind the study are keen for us to see things from the salespeople's perspective, arguing that they may actually be able to help. But for most of us, the whole enterprise is a frustrating waste of our time and energy, so it's worth knowing the handful of steps that should rid you of unwanted calls once and for all.

Get rid of cold callers

1. Register with the Telephone Preference Service
This is a free service, which you can register with online or by calling 0845 070 0707. This will mean companies cannot call unless you have given them permission to do so.

2. Contact the organisation direct
Once you have registered, the only unwanted calls you should be getting are from companies you accidentally gave permission to contact you. To get rid of them, whenever you get a cold call, ask to be removed from their database. If the caller hasn't got the power to do that, ask to be put through to the person who does - or get their phone number and details.

3. Block the number
If you are getting calls after this, you may want to block the number. Mobile phone operators will bar numbers for free, landline companies will let you ban callers who constitute real nuisance, and some will do this for free. If your phone company charges for call blocking, you can buy a gadget to attach to your phone to block the calls for you.

4. Report them
If you continue to receive calls, make a note of the number calling you, and the date and time of the calls. Then report them to the Information Commissioner's Office on 0303 123 1113. They will investigate, and can issue fines and force them to comply.

5. Make sure you don't give anyone permission to call again
Once you have cleared existing cold callers, try not to create any new ones. Whenever you fill in any forms - either online or in real life - check carefully whether you have given then permission to contact you - or for selected partners to get in touch. Make sure you haven't given them this permission, or there will be a whole new group of cold callers ready to pounce.