Unwanted calls: phone services that can help

Phone companies offer a number of services that can help protect against unwanted phone calls.

Caller display

Caller display shows you the number presented by the person calling (if the number has not been withheld and you have a phone with a display), so you can choose whether to answer.

Caller display information is also important because it allows you to report the number making unwanted calls. Information about the caller can also help handsets and services that rely on the telephone number to block and filter calls to work effectively.

If you use caller display to identify callers, you should be aware that the number shown may not always be the number of the person calling, due to ‘number spoofing.’ Spoofing involves callers hiding their identity by causing a false or invalid phone number to be displayed when making calls. A spoofed number on a call display might be a random series of digits or can mimic the number of a real company or person who has nothing to do with the actual caller.

Incoming call blocking/filtering

Incoming call blocking services can help tackle unwanted calls by preventing selected numbers from getting through.

Different providers offer various call blocking and filtering products. This can include allowing landline users to send certain calls to a junk voicemail box, such as:

  • calls from the provider’s blocklist of unwanted callers;
  • calls you have blocked; and
  • certain types of calls (e.g. where the caller has withheld their number or calls from international numbers).

You can retrieve any messages left in the junk voicemail box at your convenience.

Anonymous call rejection

Scammers or some callers making unsolicited or nuisance marketing calls may try to hide their identity by withholding their number.

Anonymous call rejection allows you to block calls from people who withhold their number. Users of this service should be aware that some organisations such as the police, hospitals, fire brigades and utility companies may sometimes withhold their numbers. Using anonymous call rejection would mean that you may not receive these calls.

Last caller identification or 1471

Where an unwanted call has been received, dialling 1471 immediately afterwards can help identify the number of the last caller (unless the caller has withheld their number).

Once the number has been obtained using 1471, you can note it down and report the number.

Using mobile apps to identify and filter calls

Some mobile phones may also have built-in functionality to help identify suspected scam calls or to screen calls. Alternatively, there are third party apps that can provide similar functionality. The process for installing these will differ based on your phone and its manufacturer; more information may be available from your manufacturer.

Other services

Some banks and communications providers are currently piloting a scheme which allows you to directly contact your bank if you believe someone is trying to trick you into handing over money or personal details over a voice call. You just need to hang up and call the number ‘159’ to speak directly to your bank. More information about this scheme is available on the Stop Scams UK website.

In addition to the network-based solutions noted above, telephones or call blocker units that can be programmed to screen unwanted calls are also available. These can be purchased from retailers as well as from some phone companies directly. You will need to enable caller display services, so that the number of the caller can be used to help you filter calls.

Alternatively, a voicemail service could also be used to screen calls. Some providers also offer an enhanced voicemail service that runs on their network.

If you have concerns about unwanted calls, speak to your provider (or prospective provider) to find out about any other available services.

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