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Updated: 1 Mar 2022

Top tips to stop cold calls

Unwanted phone calls – cold calls – are one of the UK's most-hated marketing tactics. Don't put up with them; use our expert advice to keep them to a minimum.
Jon Barrow

Fed up with nuisance phone calls? Then you’re not alone. The latest figures from the telecoms regulator Ofcom showed that 43% of people in 2019 received a nuisance call on their home phone in the last month.

That’s actually an improvement – back in July 2015, the proportion was a shocking 73% – although it still shows the extent of the problem. But there are things you can do to fight back. Read on to discover our top tips for reducing the number of annoying calls that you receive.

1. Register for free with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS)

If you get nuisance calls, one way to reduce them is by registering for with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). This can be done on its website tpsonline.org.uk or over the phone on 0345 070 0707. The TPS is free to use – if a company ever asks you to pay for this service, then refuse and inform the TPS.

On the whole, the TPS is very effective, and reputable organisations and businesses take it very seriously because it’s a legal requirement that companies do not make calls to numbers that are registered. But some still flout these rules. And the TPS only applies to UK-based companies making unsolicited sales and marketing calls – it doesn’t apply to market research calls, calls from companies where you have 'opted in' or calls from companies based abroad.

2. Keep your name off sales call lists

Some companies may use online or paper phone books to find numbers to target with sales calls. Ask for your phone number to be excluded from directories – this will stop companies from finding out your number in this way.

If you must provide your phone number to a company, then ask it not to call you for marketing purposes or to pass your number on to third parties. And carefully check the marketing 'opt out/opt in' boxes when providing your contact details on forms. Finally, contact companies you already receive unwanted sales calls from and ask to be removed from their call lists. Companies should abide by verbal requests, but it’s a good idea to put your request in writing, too, so there is a formal record.

3. Screen your phone calls

If you have caller display and an answer phone, consider only answering calls from numbers you recognise. Legitimate callers are likely to leave a message.

4. Set up call barring for unwanted calls

Many cold calls come from abroad, so unless you need to receive international calls, ask your phone operator if it can block calls from international numbers (it may charge for this service). You may also wish to block calls from withheld numbers, although this may prevent some calls you want to receive. For example, if a friend or relative is calling from their workplace, this number may be withheld.

5. Consider using a call blocker

Dedicated devices such as CPR Call Blocker and TrueCall Call Blocker plug directly into your home phone, and allow you to screen the calls you receive. Alternatively, you can also buy some home phones with call blocking features built in to them.

See which cordless phones we recommend for this task in our round-up of the top five call blocking home phones.

These all offer varying degrees of sophistication. Basic options will only block specific numbers, while more advanced phones and call blockers can intercept all calls from certain types of numbers, such as withheld or international calls. The very best will act as virtual secretaries, only automatically connecting calls from your contacts and asking everyone else to state the reason for their call, before playing you this message and letting you decide whether you want to accept it.

All call blocking devices require caller ID to work.

6. Report cold-calling offenders

It’s important to report nuisance calls so that the offenders are identified and punished. But the body to contact varies depending upon the type of call. So you should report live sales and marketing calls to the TPS (assuming you’ve already registered your number with it), while silent calls should be reported to Ofcom and scams to Action Fraud.

To make things easier use our free nuisance calls reporting tool, which will route your complaint to the correct body.