When (Telephone) Trolls Attack

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It seems that the government is finally taking the problem of unsolicited sales calls seriously. Recently, new measures have been announced to deter unwanted sales calls from the less-than-reputable end of the cold calling industry. However, although this is good news for many people it may not see the desired effect in the short term. The new rules, announced by Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, will include increased fines and a relaxation of the circumstances under which companies can be fined. The need to prove ‘serious distress’ which will be one factor that will be broadened allowing the Information Commissioner to impose fines on companies breaking the rules. However, different types of unwanted calls come from different sources and on many occasions we have unwittingly signed up and agreed to receive these calls.

High Speed Mistakes

Back in the pre-internet age, if you can just about remember those dark days, signing up to anything meant just that. It involved pen, paper and a laborious few hours filling all your personal details. You then had to search through reams of paperwork for a small “opt-out/opt-in” box stating that you did/didn’t want to receive promotional offers and/or agree to the sharing of your information. In those days it could take weeks to complete a single form. Now, thanks to the internet, everything is so much easier. You can sign up to hundreds of offers, contracts and newsletters in just seconds with a couple of clicks here or there. Unfortunately this means you can also overlook the all-important opt-in or opt-out box relating to future “marketing communications”. Once your details are out there it can be very hard to get them back.

Trolls and the Telephone

There are three main types of nuisance calls and these come from very different sources. Unsolicited sales calls, silent calls and threatening/malicious calls are the main types of unwanted call. Today, most traditional nuisance callers have upgraded to Twitter and spend their time bothering people minor celebrities or activists . However, some people still love a bit of old-style nuisance calling. These calls can be distressing and upsetting but dealing with them is usually quite simple. When you pick up the phone don’t speak, friends and relatives will speak first if you don’t. If it’s your not-so-friendly-neighbourhood troll simply place the receiver to one side and leave them hanging on the telephone. Most nuisance callers thrive on a response and not giving them this will soon have them stalking other prey. If, however, you are genuinely concerned you should also contact the police and your phone company to report the call. Silent calls can also be upsetting, especially for older users, but today there’s usually a simple explanation; they’re the result of automated calling systems which should connect you to an advisor when you answer but staff shortages can mean the call fails, leaving you wondering why the silence? Unsolicited sales calls are, judging by the number of complaints, something that we are all familiar with. Regardless of whether you have or haven’t signed up for this particular call you are within your rights to request that your details are removed from the relevant list. Oddly, call centre workers don’t always have time to remember to do this (or, perhaps, the brain function to understand the request). Ask for the name of their company and office address – sometimes this is enough to terrify them and make them hang up – but if you get an answer make a note and put the request in writing as well. This can be a slow process, if you receive a lot of calls, but it’s worth doing.

Technical Tips

Caller Display or a nuisance call blocker are simple ways to also help cut down the number of calls you receive. Overseas call centres may not fall under the regulations governing unwanted calls but if you don’t need to receive international calls, having these blocked will cut a surprising number of calls. Telephone call blocker devices are also excellent ways to deal with unwanted calls. These can be especially useful if you have older, or vulnerable, relatives who receive a high number of calls. You can block very specific types of call and add numbers to the device, either as they come in or by manually listing the number. Some call blockers allow you to block up to 1500 numbers, which may not be necessary in all cases, but is certainly a good option for many homes.

Tackling Tinnitus Yourself

Hopefully, the new regulations implemented by the government will be a big help to many people and reduce the number of unwanted, unsolicited and uncalled for calls. In the meantime taking a few positive steps yourself should ease that ringing in your ears.

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Nick Barnett

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