back to article Nuisance calls DOUBLE, Ofcom vows to hunt down offenders

Ofcom has outlined yet another plan to target annoying phones calls, which according to its latest report have doubled. It is hoping that imposing a few fines, writing several stern letters and doing more research will stem the flow - despite remaining entirely powerless to prevent calls that originate outside the UK. Many of …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whats good for the goose..

    The USA fines companies huge amounts even outside of its legal duristiction e.g. Swiss banks etc. This should set a nice precedant for fining Florida based phone callers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Whats good for the goose..

      Yes but the US is a law unto itself and backed by a huge military.

      1. Otto von Humpenstumpf
        Devil

        Re: Whats good for the goose..

        Not forgetting that, in order to sue American corporate entities, the UK would have to crawl out of the rectum of the US first, where it's been making itself comfortable for the last 50 years or so.

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Whats good for the goose..

        @Frank

        Both the US and the UK are pursuing Swiss banks with a fair degree of success over assisting tax evaders. It's perfectly easy to apply sanctions to non-domiciled companies via their agents such as banks or credit card companies - viz. fines on HSBC for money-laundering for the Mexican mafia.

        While VoIP may make tracking the individual perpetrators a bit more difficult, it is perfectly possible to threaten providers with loss of peering rights (the ability to pass calls into a network) if it takes no action against abusers on its network. This is the same principle when dealing with spam floods - servers, data centres or even whole networks can get blacklisted.

        OfCom does need to act faster and impose bigger fines to deter offenders. In Germany, the number of nuisance calls more than halved after fines were significantly increased. But this requires OfCom to act in the interest of consumers which, as others have pointed out, it rarely does.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Whats good for the goose..

        "Yes but the US is a law unto itself and backed by a huge military."

        Yeah!

        Stop cold calling us or its war!

  2. Khaptain Silver badge

    A good stiff letter

    I am sure that a stiff letter will deter even the most harded criminal, not...

    FFS get serious, these guys are a PITA for everyone, the only reason the Telcos do nothing is because they also make money from these damned schemes.

    The Telcos have the capacity to trace anything/everything, the technology requires it. Number obfuscation is done at the telco side so they can easilly determine the orginator of the calls.

    Someone went to jail the other day for 5 years for copying films, in that case, these bastards should go down for 10 years. No-one appreciates those damned calls and these guys are basically predators preying on the innocent and the ignorant.

    1. It wasnt me
      Happy

      Re: A good stiff letter

      Yes, all correct. But Ofcom, set up as a regulator, operates primarily as a lobby group for the industry. They are completely toothless, and judging them by their actions completely uninterested in acting for the consumer.

      Nothing at all will happen, ever. Successive governements have no interest in reforming Ofcom. You cant even get rid of your landline, since the state supported monopoly that is BT insists you pay for one to receive the internet.

      Getting rid of your landline wouldn't evn help, as they move to mobile.

      Unfortunately, the reality is that absolutely no-one anywhere has any interest in stopping this, as everyone in the chain apart from the poor suckers getting harassed is making money from it.

      1. SuccessCase

        Re: A good stiff letter

        "You cant even get rid of your landline, since the state supported monopoly that is BT insists you pay for one to receive the internet."

        Well that's not completely fair. Firstly you can get rid of your landline if you are in a cable area (and most are), though clearly you only have the option of cable Internet if you do. You can order pure Cable Internet and no telephone. Secondly you need a landline to receive ADSL Internet, and the reason you need two companies for that (the ISP and line rental company) is because you need someone to be responsible for installation between the street cabinet and your home. That installation has a subsidised price, The regulator could change the framework to ensure this service can be supplied by one entity, but that then would mean the regulator has to decide what is a reasonable cost for the ISP buying up a customer to compensate for the loss of a customer that was paying the subsidised installation cost (which means prices for that part get set by govt policy - not all think that's a good idea). Also ISP prices will then be higher to cover this cost - and since a landline is needed for Internet - you may as well have one of those too, whether you use it or not. All this can be changed by regulation but the alternatives are not necessarily better. If you allow the ISP's to do installation from the cabinet to the home, then you have multiple installers from different companies accessing the same cabinets. A recipe for disaster. It just wouldn't work. Traditionally BT owned the local loop network. They are now split in two companies, one which deals with whole-sale supply to the ISP's including the local loop and another which sells the advanced services running over it. The wholesale company is in some ways similar to Railtrack but since every customer has a "station" in their home, they also get some of their compensation for the cost of it all from the end user (not from the wholesale company but via their "advanced services company). The regulators deliberate strategy is to allow competitors at multiple levels in the network to compete from the centre outwards. This has had to be highly regulated and has taken years because it has major implications for street works on roads, pavements, sharing of ducts etc. All very complex. The bigger competitors have been building competing networks, pushing further and further out towards the customer. O2 for example now have their own fibre network to the street cabinet, now. Soon they may well be in a position to ignore BT's "Railtrack" wholesale business and provide the local loop part directly (if they aren't already doing that in some areas).

        I'm not saying there aren't bad aspects to the system. Just pointing out it isn't quite so black and white. I worked a while back in cable, which often suffered at the hands of the regulator but still recognise they put a lot of thought into the system and there are no perfect policies that don't involve trade-offs when regulating competition between networks.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A good stiff letter @ SuccessCase

          You understand about paragraphs, why did you only use 2 ?

    2. DragonLord
      Joke

      Re: A good stiff letter

      I think a good stiff letter would deter most hardened criminals - if the reason it was stiff was that it was written on the back of a recent polaroid(sp?) of their children

    3. I Am Spartacus
      Devil

      Lets fight back

      Totally agree.

      I worked in Telcos. The fact that the calling number is not displayed is not down to the fact that it is not known. It is, to the Telco. The call setup sends a flag saying that the number should not be displayed.

      This whole fiasco from overseas calls that say "Unknown" or "Foreign" on the handset can be overcome at a stroke. Pass a UK law saying that the overseas number will ALWAYS be shown, in full, regardless of the flag.

      Lets see how long these calls carry one once people find that they can call a claims management company who will act for free and prosecute the cold callers, and share any compensation they can extract. All we need now is such companies to exists and tell us .....

      .... oh.

      1. Nissemus

        Re: Lets fight back

        I've been trying for years to get BT to explain why they won't show international numbers on caller display. I've never been able to get a straight answer.

  3. Bob Dunlop

    Fine BT for calls

    Fine BT and the other Telcos ten pounds for every international nuisance call they forward to a TPS protected number.

    I bet then the "problem" would be solved very quickly.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Re: Fine BT for calls

      Earth calling Bob....

      And how do you expect BT and other to know every single number in the world and if it is a "nuisance" call.

      That timeshare company in Florida, calling Misses Miggins, did she sign up for a timeshare whilst on holiday in Florida last year or not? How do BT know?

      And say in your grand plan, the magic pixies did create a magic white and blacklist for the entire world (including mobiles), do you think BT will suffer or the end customer?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. hugo tyson
          Go

          Re: Fine BT for calls

          1471: "to call back, press 3; if the previous call was a nuisance call, press 9"

          together with a simple voting system, like "click to label this email as spam".

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Fine BT for calls

            And for the 99.9999999% using spoofed / withheld / disposable numbers?

          2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: Fine BT for calls

            With most telcos, dialling 1474 logs the call to the operator for investigation.

            If you are unfortunate to receive malicious calls, the police will ask you to do this after each malicious call you receive so that they can get a record of these calls from the telco.

            After receiving a slew of unwanted calls from India (sometimes several a day), we started dialling this after each one. They then stopped; this may be pure coincidence, but it can't harm to do it...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fine BT for calls

      Fint the teleco - and split the proceeds 50:50 with the injured subscriber.

  4. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
    Flame

    One number to rule them all

    A good start would be one body for people to complain to about nuisance calls. http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/tell-us/telecoms/privacy/ shows differening bodies for differening crimes.

    Next, OFCOM (Or whoever) actaully needs to get off their butt and do some investigation. Just claiming "There's no CLI so we can't trace the call" is rubbish. For all UK calls (and UK callers do hide their CLI) the phone companies know exactly where the call came from.

    Finally, OFCOM (Or whoever) need to start dishing out some serious punishments to these outfits. A stern letter isn't going to do it. Hefty fines and/or cutting off their phone lines are a good start.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ofcom and bt has probably always known who and where from

    computer generated or not, all calls hit cable/fibre infrastructure at somepoint, irrespective of satellite, undersea cable, or mobile phone routing.

    the uk infrastructure, cables coming ashore, terrestial receiving stations were all at one time controlled by BT

    BT used to say they couldn't identify callers from outside the uk.

    one wonders how they ever got paid for 'routing' the call and how the call was conducted "two -way" without knowing the destination (source) 'routing' and thereby, the real caller.

    with so many mergers, acquisitions and outsourcing BT would no doubt 'bellyache' now that its not possible.

    the cables are still in place, the terrestial receiving stations - someone is controlling and managing these - so again, the 'routing' details are known to someone.

    one can't wonder if OFCOM has been quitely urged not to follow up this, as the Gov always gets a share of the revenues generated, let alone, BT, EverthingEverywhere, Inmarsat, SKY, Virgin, O2, Orange, tom cobley and all.

    even if not the actual call routing charge, the VAT and Electricity taxes used to generate/transmit the calls!

    1. John Sager

      Re: ofcom and bt has probably always known who and where from

      Phone calls don't work like the Internet. An international call arriving into BT has a known endpoint on BT's switch, and they also know which overseas operator it came from (for charging) and some forwarded CLI, which could be anything. There is nothing to say it bears any relationship to the call originator, and it doesn't have to be accurate for the call to be successfully connected. So BT can connect the call in the UK and mark it 'International'. They may even trust the CLI in some cases and pass it on, but I've never seen that on my landline (not that we get many genuine international calls).

      Having CLI on our phones, all 'International', 'Unavailable' and 'Witheld' calls are not answered & go to the answering machine. Almost without fail they hang up. It's a low hassle way of filtering the crap, though it would be good if there were a way of wasting their time without wasting mine.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Binning withheld numbers

        The problem with binning withheld numbers is that old people are increasingly adviced to default block their number with the phone supplier, as a security measure against dodgy companies getting it and putting it on to marketing lists. I know this 'cos both my dad and gran now do this, which winds me up no end as I never know if it's them or some muppet from India trying to "fix my computer on behalf of Microsft"!

    2. I Am Spartacus
      Facepalm

      Re: ofcom and bt has probably always known who and where from

      I agree. Interconnect billing is a huge part of any telco's system. If you can't identify originating callers number no telco in the world would forward the call to the called number. They would simply loose too much money.

      If the calling number was spoofed, then the calling telco would be seriously out of profit themselves, because then they could not bill for the call.

      I used to work in Telco's some years back and this was true then. I am having drinks with a couple of friends who still do work for Telco's tomorrow and I will ask them.

      1. PatientOne

        Re: ofcom and bt has probably always known who and where from

        "If you can't identify originating callers number no telco in the world would forward the call to the called number."

        Not true.

        The call is made in... oh, country A, destined for someone in country E, routing via B, C and D. E bills D. D bills C. C bills B. B bills A and A bills the originator. Only A knows who the originator is: B, C, D and E only need to know which TelCo put the call through to them so they can claim their part of the call charge. This is why call costs vary depending on where they originate: It's the number of TelCo's involved in making the connection and adding their own call charges that ramps up the costs.

        The idea of fining the TelCo's, however, does hold merit: They pay the fine, then charge back to whoever passed the call on. This then can be passed back to the original caller as each TelCo will know who was calling the destination number...

        The other option is to make it easy for the customer to have international, or number withheld, calls blocked at switch. It's possible, and available, if you know who to ask or what to ask for (I've been fighting BT to get this implemented on my line, but they keep telling me it can't be done even though I know people who they are doing so for...)

        And yes, I also worked in TelCo's some years back.

  6. AdamW

    Someone will mention asterisk

    1. The BigYin

      I hope someone does. I'd love to know how to set such a thing up, chuck the landline and have cheapy-cheap VOIP calls.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Happy

        Why prat around with the god awful Asterisk?

        Just get a basic ATA (analogue telephone adapter) and set it up to your chosen SIP provider. Heck a lot of broadband routers have ATA's built in.

        Still probably need the landline unless you have a broadband only setup.

        oh and the quality will be hit and miss, what with the public Internet having no QoS and all that.

  7. Lee Dowling Silver badge

    Treat the telecoms companies like an ISP spamming emails.

    Too many nuisances, originating from a certain international telecoms company, and you list them in a public blacklist and UK telcos are required to block all calls from them until they clear up their act (i.e. until that international telco monitor their customers and at a MINIMUM demand identification details from large callers, limit call volumes, act on abuse complaints, etc.). Don't worry about the companies that are doing the calling - that's up to the foreign telco to act on and put out of business. After all, they are paying customers of that telco and subject to the same legal jurisdiction as the telco too. Just make the telcos block the entire source (if you don't know what cable that international call has come in on - well, you shouldn't be a bloody telco). When the international telcos can't call Britain, they will go through and expunge most spammers from their customers and/or enforce things like valid Caller-ID, etc. in order to get that facility back (or, at least, stop the spammers calling the UK so they don't lose access and carry on letting them spam everyone else, but who cares about that?).

    Additionally, LOG ALL FECKING CALLS. Don't tell me you can't, because you bill me for them, itemise them every month, and if I'm being harassed BT are very happy to intercept my entire telephone line, take all calls, trace the harasser (Caller-ID or not) and report them to police. I know, because years ago someone from a caller-ID-withheld number was spamming my phone line so that it was just going off all the time for hours. Eventually I had BT intercept the line, they traced it, called the BANK that was faxing me private banking details thinking my home phone was one of their branches (and I didn't have a fax machine to hand or I'd have received that data myself) and had their faxes set to mad auto-redial. Even the number traced wasn't an incoming phone line, but they had customer details on hand and phoned through to the bank's data protection department to get the problem sorted.

    If you log all the calls, and then ENFORCE Caller-ID (i.e. don't trust the caller to supply it), and then I get a dodgy phone call, then you can provide everyone with a number (e.g. the numeric equivalent of "SPAM" on the phone) and when I dial that you can have an automated system reel off the last X numbers that called, with times and dates, and let me press 1) to report unsolicited calls, 2) to report silent calls, 3) to report harassment, 4) to block that number forever. Just what is DIFFICULT about that for a telco? And, hell, why can't I just block ALL international calls except from country X (where my relatives live) at no cost? Because there is no business interest in the telcos allowing you to do so at the moment and that's the biggest problem.

    OfCom is toothless, telcos are uninterested because they get paid to ferry spam back and forth. Fix those problems and the actual, technical and political problem is very easy to solve internationally (for UK customers at least). We can nearly make porn-blocking--at-your-ISP-by-default law, but we can't make it so that telcos are obliged to provide number-blocking services for free? It's also like the Royal Mail spam-con. You can tell them you don't want to receive unaddressed spam but you still end up with some of it via them no matter what, because they are getting paid to deliver it.

    Personally, at home I don't answer the phone unless the Caller-ID comes up with someone I know (and I have an answering machine, so leave a message if it's that important, or my bank is calling or whatever). And my mobile phone, I google the numbers before answering and spam ones go into a "SPAM" contact that has a silent ringtone. BECAUSE THE DAMN TELCOS want me to pay more to let them do that for me.

    Is it any wonder that people are moving onto things like Skype and abandoning traditional telephony? At least with Skype spam amounts only to "Do you wish to add gahdkjghakjfdhg@hgfsdjhg.com to your contact list?" which is no worse than my MSN account which has about 10 blocked addresses and has been running every day since Hotmail was still plain HTML.

  8. Peter Fox
    Megaphone

    My simple suggestion

    Have a '1414' number that you ring just after receiving any sort of nuisance call. (A bit like 1471) This goes through to an automated press 1 for silent, 2 for ignoring TPS, 3 for scam, 4 for personal harassment etc. The system knows your last caller ID so it soon collects "we have dozens of number 2s from number 1234567890" and at some threshold puts that number on a blacklist and demands an explanation and/or fine from telco and/or originator. Job done simply. The more it costs telcos the larger the fines.

    1. Harmless
      Thumb Up

      Re: My simple suggestion

      Great idea!

      Or - the phone co could arrange for a different ring pattern for overseas (and potentially annoying) calls - like the American single long rings instead of the UK double rings. At least we'd know before answering it, or choose to ignore it.

      Or they could track calling numbers like spam emails - if they notice a lot of random calls from an overseas number it's obviously spam - block them. Not rocket science, is it?

  9. ukgnome Silver badge

    Do these calls bug you? Then what you need is a four year old boy called James (other boys names are available)

    That's the method we employ, and it is very effective, sometimes he will ask them all manner of awkward questions.

    If ofcock used small children to contact these companies I am sure they will adjust their business model.

    1. Wize

      Works fine until the friends of Jimmy Savile call your home.

  10. Gadfly

    Regulation is useless

    Complaining is a waste of time. I have a call-blocking device now which is very effective.

    1. Ragarath
      Alert

      Re: Regulation is useless

      But BT say this cannot be done, how did you make/purchase such a magical device that is impossible to make? (according to BT)

      1. brassedoff
        Go

        Re: Regulation is useless

        My Mrs has set our answering machine to filter out any call that isn't whitelisted (i.e. in our list of known numbers) to go straight to answering machine whereupon a 12 year old (slight variant on the six year old) invites spammer to hang up now. Surprisingly, most of them do.

      2. PatientOne

        Re: Regulation is useless

        @Ragarath

        BT told me they couldn't do it. I pointed out they were providing that very same service to other customers. Their excuse was 'Oh, they're on a different exchange'.

        Yes, they can block the numbers. They *do* block the numbers at exchange. Getting them to admit and implement this, however, is harder than pulling hen's teeth.

  11. Sooty

    is it possible

    to ask your phone company to simply drop any calls to you from outside the country, I can't imagine any situation where most of the people I know would legitimately need to recieve them.

    then after the is it possible, is it free!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: is it possible

      Yeah, but you just KNOW that any feature like that, that is worth something to us... will be charged for as an extra :(

    2. Wize

      Re: is it possible

      Blocking overseas calls sounds like a great idea. May also help promote employment in the UK by having their call centres in the UK.

      Though they may end up just bouncing their India call centre via a UK exchange, but at least you have better comeback to get that UK number blocked and the UK company fined for breaking the don't call list.

  12. The BigYin

    If I get a computer...

    ...I hang up. If I get a human, I waste their time for as long as I can. Strangely enough, I don't really get any nuisance calls. Maybe I am on a "Don't call this number, the guy is on to us" list?

    (WARNING: Incoming F-bombs)

    What I want stopped, ***NOW*** are these fuckers texting me about PPI. Seriously, fuck off.

    1. david bates

      Re: If I get a computer...

      Start forwarding them (with the number they came from) to your networks 'spam' number. I did this about half a dozen times, and the texts have actually dried up.

    2. Leona A
      Thumb Up

      Re: If I get a computer...

      on my mobile I can 'block' numbers who text me, so all I do with these is, 'add to block list' delete and gone, I used to get several a day, I'm down to a few a month now, result.

    3. Eponymous Cowherd
      Thumb Up

      Re: If I get a computer...

      If I have some time to spare I, too, just tag them along for as long as possible before informing them that I'm not interested and my sole purpose of talking to them was to waste their time.

      They really love it when you do that to them and you usually come in for some extreme abuse which you record and pass on to the Plods. Plod isn't interested in nuisance calls. But they will (must, in fact) investigate threats.

      For those txt messages. I just use the numbers to sign up to as much shite as I can manage.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    make it possible for customers to bar individual calls.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How about something akin to a Usenet Death Penalty

    If your network harbours scumbags and shows unwillingness or inability to do anything about it, your calls will be dropped at our network boundary.

  15. Dire Criti¢

    It would help if my caller id showed the international number calling me instead of just showing as "INTERNATIONAL" on my Panasonic phones. As I have an American girlfriend (whose phone always shows my number when I call her) I have no option but to answer the phone when said international appears on the phone.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      It would help if my caller id showed the international number calling me instead of just showing as "INTERNATIONAL" on my Panasonic phones.

      It depends on how the call gets from your girlfriend to your house phone (i.e. what carriers)

      At my office, I have both a BT and a Virgin Media number. I got a contact in America to call me on both numbers. BT gave me the american CLI, Virgin gave me nothing.

  16. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    What they did to Radio Caroline was ...

    ... make it illegal for UK companies to have business dealings (ie buy advertising) with them. Thus the UK advertising dried up and they ran out of money.

    Now, if people are getting calls for <some UK company> where said UK company is getting round the rules by employing some Indian/Philippines/wherever contractor to do the ringing round - then fine the UK company. I can't imagine many outfits keeping up the marketing if the customer can't pay them for it.

    That in effect is how the USA gets round the extra-territorial reach problem. They just make it so that anyone in the US is responsible for their overseas subsidiaries or contractors. At my last place we came under Sarbanes-Oxley because of this - and it was a right PITA.

    The other thing that could be done would be to clamp down on telcos passing on unreliable CLI. If the foreign telco is shown to be supplying dodgy CLI then disable it altogether - there is a flag in the data stream for this. Better still, just cut off the foreign telco until they come into line. Harsh, but it doesn't seem that anything else will work.

  17. Dr Paul Taylor

    Real calls indistinguishable from spam

    The phone or the telco can block calls without caller ID. However, this does not solve the problem, because there are legitimate calls without it too, and not just international or Skype calls. It seems that hospitals and banks have a policy of withholding this information. Banks seem to be very keen on mimicking phishers. If you have two parents with dementia or some other reason to expect calls from hospitals and social services then you have no choice but to answer all calls. So the other side of the coin is to overturn this misguided notion of "security" and require all non-residential callers to provide caller ID.

    1. DragonLord

      Re: Real calls indistinguishable from spam

      install a truecall unit or some other call blocking bit of hardware that requires the caller to press a number and leave their name so that the person being called knows that a) it's a human, and b) knows who it is.

      in most cases nuisance calls will just disappear, while the legitimate callers don't usually mind the extra steps.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Real calls indistinguishable from spam

        Yep get a Truecall box - they're the dogs bollox. Just checked the stats on ours and for the last year it has rejected 79.6% of calls on the basis that they are one of the following :

        1) Known spammers;

        2) Invalid numbers;

        3) International calls (we don't want any thanks);

        4) Number withheld - if you don't want me to know who you are I'm not taking the call.

        Forget Ofcom, TPS, ICO etc. They are useless.

        Even when Ofcom slaps a fine on the spammers all that happens is the company closes (without paying the fine) and reopens with a brand-new name a couple of weeks later. Rinse/repeat until they eventually get struck off as directors (takes at least 5 years) when they have to use relatives to front the business.

        The telecos don't want to stop this because they make shedloads of cash out of the spammers and the govt won't do anything because there's thousands (if not millions) of people working for the spammers.

        The only option is to deal with it yourself (Truecall/something similar) or simply don't have a phone plugged into the landline. Nothing else will work.

  18. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. Leona A
    Mushroom

    No it doesn't

    "Many people use the Telephone Preference Service to opt out of cold calling, which works well enough "

    No it doesn't, I am on the TPS scheme and am constantly being called, I collect the numbers, go to the website and fill out all the details, 8 times a night sometimes.

    I get an email back some months later saying nothing could be done.

    Toothless, bottle-less job-worths what's the point :(

    1. Anonymous Cowerd
      Thumb Up

      Re: No it doesn't

      Yeah, I had a cold call from BT yesterday, even though I'm on TPS.

    2. Mister_C
      FAIL

      Re: No it doesn't

      Some extra points from my last TPS response that really rub salt in:

      - The TPS response had a "noreply@TPS" address

      - They don't give any case reference number

      - The muppet included comments along the lines of "you haven't given us enough to go on, do contact us again to discuss this further"

      Useless Muppets

  20. Otto von Humpenstumpf
    Stop

    Scumbags

    I get spam calls pretty much on a daily basis. Nearly every evening when I get home, there's a recorded message on my answerphone. On top of that, I get silent phone calls in the evening and on weekends every other day.

    The irritating thing is that there's bugger all I can do about it -- 1471 says that it doesn't have the caller's number, and I simply don't have the time to start battling with BT.

    On an unrelated note -- is anybody else getting spam emails from Korea (South)?

  21. David Hickson (Silent Calls Victim)

    Ofcom misses the point

    The fair telecoms campaign has long been pursuing Ofcom over its persistent (mis-)use of its powers to address persistent misuse of telecommunications networks and services.

    Our media release in response to yesterday's announcement of a further (in)Action Plan is found at http://tiny.cc/FTMR_inaction.

    Ofcom's powers cover any business with a UK presence that instigates misuse, even if it is conducted from outside the EU. The key point is that Ofcom has a policy that knowingly and deliberately tolerates Silent Calls.

    Many of the complaints that Ofcom receives identify the perpetrator of Silent Calls, but it takes no action because it deems the relevant activity to be acceptable.

    On the wider issue of nuisance calls, the only way to ensure that this issue is properly addressed will be for a citizen-focussed agency to deal with the problem as a whole, ensuring that the statutory powers of the respective regulators and the influence of others are properly and effectively engaged. See - http://tiny.cc/FTBlog_NCProps.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Re: Ofcom misses the point

      Sorry, but I won't follow shortend URL's, what with them being notorious for spam and malware linking.

      Ironic isn't it?

  22. hugo tyson
    Go

    Legitimate calls

    If we have a voting 1471-type report system, companies who have a genuine business relationship will soon learn not to use the same number for their legit calls as they do for spamming.

    And other organisations will learn to present *something* valid eg. the global NHS helpline number, or bank contact number, or supermarket helpdesk, or... rather than anonymous if they want to get through.

  23. P. Lee Silver badge

    Surely there's an easy way to fix this

    Each telco tags/logs which telco/exchange it received calls from as it passes it on.

    If you get a nuisance call, you enter a few digits on your phone (like a call-back request) and the telco traces the source of the call and issues a request to its upstream routing partner for the same data.

    Pretty quickly you find the source of the calls. If no caller-id is provided or it looks dubious, the telco appends data to the caller-id information.

    If you automatically offer full routing information to ipv6 VOIP users, that might help push things along for ipv6 too.

  24. RealmOfCoufusion

    There's fun to be had

    Rather than just hanging up, I've decided to have some fun with the calls that are doing a "lifestyle questionnaire".

    Q: What's your annual salary?

    A: 2 guineas, 14 shillings and sixpence, although last year I elected to be paid via a barter system so technically it was 2 swans, a boar, six pigs and a flaggon of ale.

    Q: Do you own your property or do you rent?

    A: My property is actually still based on the old fuedal system, so technically I'm a serf to the lord of the manor.

    Q: Do you receive your television by cable or satellite?

    A: I get the data sent to me on 5 1/4 inch floppies and then install the programs from those direct to my Edison Vision-O-Scope viewing device.

    Nothing is guaranteed to confuse "Brian" from India any faster!

    1. Eponymous Cowherd
      Thumb Up

      Re: There's fun to be had

      Absolutely!!

      Its great fun trying to see how absurd you can make your answers before "Brian" catches on.

      Had one asking about my energy suppliers. Told him I made my own. He swallowed that I generated my own electricity using PV and wind. That was an easy win.

      I then went on to convince him I made my own gas by fermenting kitchen and toilet waste.

  25. jason 7
    Meh

    Cant I just ask to opt out of receiving any calls from India?

    Won't affect me at all.

    I don't tend to deal with companies that offshore either. No loss.

    A digital exchange would be able to do that surely?

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Cant I just ask to opt out of receiving any calls from India?

      That's fine until you need to call your telco's call centre in India to complain about a billing error and are told that their supervisor will ring you back, and then that call cannot be connected.

      The problem is that although most people are unlikely to have direct dealings over the phone with businesses in India, so many UK businesses have now outsourced their call centre operations there that dealing with them indirectly in this way is unavoidable.

      1. jason 7

        Re: Cant I just ask to opt out of receiving any calls from India?

        Yes but if I want to opt out thats up to me.

        I can always give those that need to call me a mobile number.

  26. JimmyPage Silver badge
    FAIL

    A lot of wasted effort in all these comments

    at the end of the day, telcos need people to make calls to make money. They will not do anything which reduces the number of calls made.

    Have DEFRA released their report on how to make turkeys vote for Christmas yet ?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm on TPS but was cold-called by BT yesterday

    trying to flog me their broadband.

    If BT can't be trusted, who can?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm on TPS but was cold-called by BT yesterday

      Except it probably won't have been BT directly, but a marketing company acting on their behalf.

      They might, if UK based (two big assumptions there) have a way round TPS in that you opted into some other campaign.

      Been caught out before... new phone number not used ANYWHERE.

    2. A J Stiles
      FAIL

      Re: I'm on TPS but was cold-called by BT yesterday

      Well, they weren't breaking the rules. Being on the TPS list specifically does not prevent anyone who has a pre-existing business relationship with you, nor anyone to whom you have volunteered your phone number (e.g. by entering it into a website form) from calling you. If you have ever had phone service from BT, you have a pre-existing business relationship. If you typed your number into a website, you were asking to be called; and when you answered, you established a business relationship.

  28. A J Stiles
    Holmes

    DIY solution

    You will need: Exchange line with caller ID. Asterisk software. Digium TDM400P card with at least 1 FXO + 1 FXS module (or cheap Chinese clone from eBay). Any old PC of 1GHz or faster. Selection of RJ11 and RJ431 connectors, cable and crimping tools. (Connect middle two pins of RJ11 plug to outside two pins of RJ431 plug to connect FXO port to exchange line, or terminals 2 and 5 of an RJ431 master socket to connect FXS port to analogue phone.)

    Highly recommended: Sample of Kevin Bloody Wilson.

    Now in your dialplan, you just some logic based on ${CALLERID(num)} so any caller who withholds their number, or who is not in your database of permitted numbers, gets a quick blast of Kev.

  29. Derichleau
    Thumb Up

    Block withheld numbers

    If Ofcom introduced legislation to make it free to opt-out of calls where the caller has withheld their number, then perhaps more people would take up this option. Then they should introduce legislation that makes it easy for an individual to take legal action against these companies, especially if you're registered with the TPS.

    I got an out of court settlement when Littlewoods kept phoning me despite the fact that I had told them that they had the wrong number:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/05/14/phone_spam/

  30. hugo tyson
    Happy

    SITs

    You can always record the Special Information Tone for Intercept as the opening stanza of your comedic answering machine message... many automatic diallers will then flag your number as disconnected.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_information_tones#Other_uses

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    best way is to use your own equipment to screen the calls. works a treat, not infalable, but cuts nearly all unwanted calls.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/29661

    Needs more sigs though...

  33. Richard Cranium

    "Many people use the Telephone Preference Service to opt out of cold calling, which works well enough for calls originating in the UK"

    Complete bollox. TPS may reduce the number of cold calls but I still get plenty. I made an FOI enquiry to see what happens if you complain. In summary if they get a lot of complaints about the same company they'll send them a "please stop doing that" letter. Although there is legislation allowing fines of up to £5000 for each offending call made that power has never been exercised.

    The marketing industry lobby extensively to claim this is a legitimate means of marketing and say "what's the problem, if you gat a call you don't want, just put the phone down"

    If you tell a caller this is a TPS registered number the response is one of: they put the phone down; they say they'll add you to their do not call list; they'll claim they do use the TPS but "you need to renew your registration every year" (not true); They'll claim you (or someone in your household) has ticked a box on an enquiry form or competition entry to agree to accept calls from them. The response I got from an Indian sounding gentleman, he asked "Can I speak to the householder" I said "Who is calling" to which his response, anticipating that I was an awkward customer, was "F! off you C!", a phrase I suspect he had learnt from making other such calls.

    Indeed (despite being on TPS) I get several unwanted "sales" calls a week, if the caller sounds Indian he risks an abusive response - my Bank uses Indian call centres and so has fallen foul of this policy...

    I don't pick the phone up for "number withheld" calls but let them go to answerphone but that too results in losing some legitimate callers.

    I think Telcos should automatically provide CLI and not charge extra for it.

    One partial solution might be for a telco to offer a filtering service, rather like the expensive truecall device/service. You can have a personal database of legitimate callers, and a blacklist, others get an answerphone. Blacklists could be aggregated and repeat offender numbers identified and shared.

    There's even a problem now with CLI numbers, it is possible to send a fake CLI. There are legitimate and approved uses for example a Doctor wishing to call a patient from his domestic line can have his surgery number displayed as CLI . Abuses are often obvious fakes like 1111111 but can be the real number of another organisation who will then risk becoming the recipient of TPS complaints and abusive calls.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Can we find a list of contact phone numbers for the members of the TPS board?

      And seed every damn' bottom feeding marketing research company etc., with them?

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmmm

    Lots of uninformed comment on here, usually starting with "It's simple". The Dunning-Kruger effect in full force.

    Some facts;

    The technical and commercial model telcos use means they only know who gave the call to them. They don't have a commercial or technical relationship with the call the network originated on unless it's the preceding one.

    BT are a minority player in international calls in the UK now. Most international calls arriving in the UK don't arrive at a BT facility. There's every chance an incoming international call will never touch BT's network.

    CLI is easily spoofed. A telco who doesn't police what their customers are doing very well will let fake CLIs into the PSTN. It's less likely to happen in the UK or Western Europe, but not impossible.

    Given that CLI is easily spoofed, white lists or black lists are pointless as you're not blocking what you think you are. The legitimate owner of the number can no longer make calls, the faker just uses another one.

    Because of the 'immediate preceding' operator approach, you can't block calls from telcos who let dodgy CLIs onto their network because you don't know that any given call came from that network. If I'm a telco in the UK who uses someone like Arbinet to bring me incoming international calls I don't even have that - I have no idea who sent me that call.

    Because CLI can be spoofed, or because reformatting can render it useless, telcos tend to mark non-domestic calls as 'INTERNATIONAL'. The exception to this rule is where the operator sending me the call is also the network it originated on - so if a France Telecom user dials a UK number and France Telecom pass that to me directly, I'll probably trust the CLI. Those dedicated inbound routes from one supplier are increasingly rare these days - deregulation and scores of operators in countries means that it's more efficient to use someone like Arbinet than negotiate hundreds of direct interconnection agreements.

    If you chose to opt out of receiving calls from, say, India - callers would fake their CLI to make it look like another country. You'd end up with everyone opting out of everything and the callers still getting through. Many legitimate call centres will legally show a UK CLI anyway as the call doesn't enter the PSTN until it reaches the UK. The call centre will be part of a UK bank's private voice network, the call stays on it until it reaches the PSTN gateway in the UK.

    The only feasible solution to this is to address the problems commercially - and given that this is often cross border and beyond the reach of national telecom regulators or legal authorities - that means EU legislation.

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