Is cold calling illegal?
Cold calling isn't illegal in the UK, but they are sometimes used for illegal reasons. For example, cold callers might try to pressure you into giving personal information such as credit card details so that they can use them fraudulently.
There are some other examples of when unsolicited calling might be illegal. If you've told a company you don't want to be contacted by them anymore, then it's against the law for them to continue to contact you against your will.
Also, if you've registered your number with the Telephone Preference Service then it's illegal for UK registered companies to contact you without your permission.
What is a cold call?
A cold call is an unwelcome and unsolicited call made by someone to try and sell you something or obtain information from you. Typically, these take the form of actual phone calls, but occasionally the term cold call can also be used to describe visits to your home by sales people that are unwanted.
That means any phone call you receive when you haven't shown any interest in a product or service is a cold call.
Register your number with the Telephone Preference Service
If you're regularly receiving calls from unknown numbers or businesses looking to sell something to you or obtain more information about you, you can register your telephone number with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).
The TPS holds a list of phone numbers in the UK who do not want to receive sales calls. It's completely free to add your number to the TPS register, and it should prevent UK companies from getting in contact.
If you're still being contacted after doing this, you can get in touch with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) who will investigate further.
How to avoid being cold called
There are things you can do to try and put an end to people cold calling you, they are:
- Avoid adding your contact details to online or paper directories companies may use these to create their calling lists. When you sign up to vote, you can also opt out of the electoral roll's "edited register" to avoid your details being used for sales calls
- Always try to opt out of receiving sales information when signing up for services or buying products online - this is usually done by making sure you tick or untick the relevant boxes when entering your personal details into a form
- Enabling your built in ‘spam checker' feature on your mobile phone, if you have one. This will warn you if a spam call comes through and is based on if the number has been reported by another user
Because a lot of unwelcome calls come from overseas call centres, another way of stopping them is to get in touch with your phone company and ask them to block foreign calls. However, this means you won't be able to receive any overseas calls, even from friends and family.
Our view on spam marketing and cold calls
We've never made a cold call, and we NEVER will.
Vulnerable people are targeted by cold calls, and that feels wrong to us. We're proud to say that we campaign against cold calling, texts and any other form of spam marketing.
You can read more about our views here, as well as report any cold calls you might have received.
How to check if a company is legitimate
It can sometimes be difficult to tell whether the person who's calling you is from a legitimate company. Some callers might give a made-up company name or use the name of a reputable company to earn your trust.
As a rule, you should never give your personal information or bank details to a caller you don't know, especially if you're unsure whether they're legitimate.
Of course, if you're expecting a call from your bank, or any other company then it may be okay to give some of your details. If you're ever unsure or feel uncomfortable than you should call them back on a number you know you can trust.
There are some other things you can do to get more of an idea of who is calling you:
- Search for them on the internet - check their website for a phone number, call it to see whether somebody from the company answers
- Check what people are saying on forums and social media - if it's not a real company, it's likely other people have been targeted too
- If the company deals in financial services or products, you can check whether it's registered on the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) register or Companies House website
- Search the phone number on the internet; this will sometimes tell you who the number belongs to
You should always go with your gut when it comes to cold calling. If you suspect a company might not be legitimate, it's best to end your conversation.
How to react to a cold call
Firstly, don't commit to anything- a lot of callers will put you under pressure to buy the product or service they're selling.
Tell the person you're speaking to that you don't wish to be contacted anymore, and that you'd like to be removed from their database. If they ask for you to confirm your name and number to be removed from the database - don't give it. Instead report their number to an impartial service like the TPS. You can find out their number by dialling 1471 from a landline to get this.
Also, avoid pressing any numbers on the phone during the call, as this could redirect you to a premium rate number which you'll be charged for.