Unsolicited phone calls and knocks at your door can be annoying, but persistent or malicious calls and visits can be unpleasant and even intimidating. Find out below the common types of caller and what you can do about them. 

Common types of calls and visits

Cold calls

Cold calls are unwanted phone calls by companies or people trying to sell you something. It’s not illegal, but companies are required to get your consent before they can market their goods and services to you by phone or email. If they don’t have it, they shouldn’t be doing it.

Indecent, threatening or offensive phone calls

Nuisance phone calls can involve the caller remaining silent or deliberately calling when they know you’re likely to be asleep. It’s rare for this kind of call to happen again and again, but if it does you can take steps to prevent it (see below).

Malicious calls are deliberately targeted at an individual and can involve threats and blackmail. Making a malicious or obscene call is a criminal offence.

Phishing scams

Fraudsters also use phone calls to try and trick people into giving them valuable personal information. This is called ‘phishing’. They either sell this information or use it themselves to commit fraud such as identity theft. This too is a criminal offence. To find out more, visit our personal fraud advice pages.

Door-to-door

Unwanted knocks at the door from people trying to sell you products can be a nuisance, especially if they happen regularly.

Sometimes these visitors’ intentions are fraudulent, whether it’s to sell counterfeit goods or services or simply gather information about you or the property. In some cases, fraudsters may even pretend to be from your utilities company and use the excuse of needing to take  a meter reading as a way to gain access to your house.

To find out more about staying safe, visit our personal fraud advice pages

What is the impact?

Unwanted calls and visits from strangers can be stressful and a nuisance, but too many of either and you can start to feel targeted in your own home or afraid of the phone ringing. It needn’t be this way. Follow the steps below to take control of who can contact you, and how they can do it.

What you can do

On most modern phones you can block certain numbers from calling or texting you. Check your phone’s instruction guide or call your service provider for help.

To help prevent nuisance and malicious calls, you can register with the Telephone Preference Service. You could also contact your phone service provider, such as BT or Virgin Media. They should be able to suggest more ways to screen and block incoming calls.

If you have been threatened or received an indecent phone call, please report it to us.

Most door-to-door callers are simply trying to sell you something. If you don’t like the way they speak to you or you feel they’re calling too often, simply ask them for their company’s details and make a complaint.

It may also be worth leaving a sign or sticker near your doorbell or letterbox saying ‘no cold callers, thank you’. This will be enough to deter most sensible salespeople.

Avoiding fraudsters

Anyone who calls at your door should have some form of identification. You are well within your rights to ask for this and make a note of their details.

Never give out banking or personal details to anyone you’re unsure about. If you can’t be certain if a visitor is genuinely who they say they are, ask them to come back at a later date. This gives you time to verify their identity and perhaps also arrange for a relative or friend to be there.

Remember, it’s ok to tell visitors you’re not interested or ask them to leave if you aren’t comfortable. Legitimate visitors will understand.

Finally, if you suspect fraud, please report it to us. The methods fraudsters use can be extremely clever - there’s no shame in having been caught out.