elderly relative from nuisance phone calls.
There has been a lot in the news recently about the hassle householders
suffer in dealing with unsolicited sales calls and irritating, potentially
frightening "silent" calls. Recently, consumer organisation Which? called on the government to step in and tak tough
action against firms perpetrating nuisance calls, saying that the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), the free national opt-out service for consumers who do not wish to receive telemarketing calls, was failing in its job
of blocking unsolicited sales calls.
Most people who have registered their landline or mobile numbers with TPS
will know from experience that this does not protect you against all forms of
unwanted calls. Because its remit lies strictly within the boundaries of "live
unsolicited calls of a sales or marketing nature", TPS cannot and does not claim
to stop other call types such as recorded or automated messages, silent calls,
market research calls, international calls from overseas sales companies and
fraudulent scam calls.
Such calls can be more of a worry where older, frail householders are
concerned. My brother and I have lost count of the number of times we have
visited our relative to discover she has fallen prey to such calls. She has
unwittingly switched fuel suppliers when already in a fixed contract, accidently
subscribed to a fitness magazines she does not want at age 81, given her
personal details and those of friends to an ambulance-chasing firm promising to
get her compensation for a minor accident, given fraudulent callers remote
access to her computer which they told her had a virus they could fix for a
price, and agreed to be sent brochures on investing in Ukrainian agricultural
land. Sometimes it is hard to know whether to laugh or cry.
To stem the flow of calls, we started by registering her number with the TPS
and asked her to say "no thank you" and hang up on anyone who appeared to be
trying to sell her something or get her to answer questions for "market
But she inevitably forgot our warnings after a while and problems recurred.
The next step was to see if we could block unwelcome calls using optional
features available on her BT line.
We tried using "caller display", inputting all numbers from her known and
trusted contacts into her phone's memory so that she could see who was calling
on the display panel each time the phone rang. We asked her simply not to answer
the phone when it rang unless she could see that the caller was someone she knew
and instead let unrecognised callers go straight to answerphone. Then, if the
caller did leave a message that was important to her, she could call them
But such instructions do not sit well with someone forgetful and from a
generation who finds it discourteous not to answer the phone and who
automatically engages in polite conversation with a friendly-sounding caller.
"What we need is some way of programming her phone to ring only when
calls come in from her list of known callers," said my brother.
I checked with BT whether we could set this up on one of their systems but,
though using various features on the recently launched BT 6500 would take us close, nothing matched the
simple configuration we wanted: that is, known caller means the phone rings,
unknown caller means the phone stays silent and goes straight to
Then we found a device from a firm called trueCall. The trueCall Call Blocker, a box device
with integral answerphone that you plug in between your phone and the wall
socket, offers various options for how you set up the system to handle calls and
block unwanted ones – from simply blocking international calls to asking every
caller to identify themselves before putting them through to you.
The highest-security "lock down profile" looks right for our relative. Here,
the phone will only ring if someone calls whose number has been input into a
"star list" of known and trusted contacts. If someone calls whose number is not
on the star list, the receiver will not ring. Instead the caller will hear a
sound as if the phone is ringing and be put through to the answerphone to leave
a message if they choose.
There is also an option to manage and control your unit online which lets you
see a log of all incoming and outgoing calls, edit the numbers on your star list
and change your configuration setting. This is free for the first year and £20 a
This device appears to tick all the boxes as far as our needs are concerned.
But before we shell out a fairly pricey £99.99 on it, it would be interesting to
know if any readers have experience of trueCall and whether they think it is
worth the money.